3 Tricks to Turn No into Yes

Not Say NoHave you ever been asked to do something but you either couldn’t or wouldn’t but didn’t have the courage to say, “No”?

Most people don’t like to be turned down or hear ‘no’ as the response to their request. And I’m going to guess that most people like to come across as positive and flexible.

Research shows saying no is hard and builds up all kinds of emotional bleakness. Forbes Contributor, Travis Bradberry, writes it’s stressful. From his article, The Art of Saying No:

Research from the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression (three things that hinder your emotional intelligence).

So, saying no is therapeutic and taking ownership when it’s used is a good thing. Nobody needs a stressed out voice talent.

What about the times where ‘no’ seems too absolute? When ‘no, but’ would work better than a definitive no.

I’ve found a few ways to handle saying no that don’t come across negative. At the core of my approach is letting people know what I can do, not what I can’t do. Letting them know what they can do, not what they can’t do. Letting them know what I need, not what I don’t need. Get the idea?

Here are some examples to illustrate what I’m talking about.

Need it Now

A client called with a project that needed immediate attention. I was booked solid but wanted to help them.

Did I respond by saying there was no way to get them into my already packed schedule? Or, did I let them know my next availability and would be happy to work with them then?

The second option told the client I was busy and could work with them when availability opened up in my schedule. I didn’t tell them no or that I couldn’t. I told them I could and was interested. It came across as positive and willing.

“I’d like to help you out with your project. I have availability Tuesday afternoon and can get audio to you by 4:00 PM. Would it be OK to go ahead and schedule session time.”

The client was happy and booked me for the project.

It’s a Date

A new client called with a project and wanted to discuss some specifics before handing over the script. They wanted to set up a meeting through Skype for Monday at 9:00 AM.

Unfortunately, Monday didn’t work for me because of the three day weekend I was taking away from my studio.

So, did I tell the client Monday was out of the question and give them the reason why? Do clients really care why I’m not available?

Or, did I let them know Tuesday was a better day and let them know their business is important?

Telling a client what you want to do is preferable to letting them know what you don’t what to do.

“I know your project is important and I want to make sure I understand it before recording begins. Tuesday is open, does 9:00 AM still work for you?”

No problem. The client was flexible and Tuesday worked great. This gave them more time to finalize details on their end. So, it worked out.

Parts are Missing

I was booked for a new project that required recording a narration for a 3-minute internal corporate video. The client sent me a script that was not finished and needed copyediting attention. I typically ask for a final approved script before getting in the booth.

Since the script was incomplete, I could push back and refuse to take the project until a final script is approved.

Or, I could offer to do the needed copyediting and add an additional line item to their invoice.

“Thanks for letting me know about the script. I know it’s important for you to have a script that makes sense and I can do the copyediting for you. My rate is $50 per script.”

In this case, the client decided it was in their best interest to get the script in order. Hearing that I was willing to take the script ‘as is’ was a positive, and offering a service to help them out (for a price) was also a positive.

Game of Noes

It turns into a personal game for me. The challenge of saying no without uttering the word. Yes, there are times when you really need to say no and you shouldn’t be afraid to do it. Remember, it’s therapeutic.

Need more support for saying no? Check out this article from the Mayo Clinic.

Stress relief: When and how to say no

Do you have ways of putting a positive spin on a response so it comes across without negativity? I’d love to hear about your tricks. Leave your comments below.

© 2016 J. Christopher Dunn

5 thoughts on “3 Tricks to Turn No into Yes

  1. howard ellison February 9, 2016 / 12:31 pm

    You’re right, Chris, it can be hard to turn someone down, but done the right way it can spare their feelings, and one’s own. Yesterday, a new studio contact offered me GBP 2.50 per minute – four dollars – for fully finished narration, inclusive of studio time. I did splutter a bit, but replied politely it fell far short of the rate card I had already supplied. The word ‘no’ wasn’t used.

    They returned a courteous reply, upping the offer to six dollars 50. Again I wrote, this time detailing what’s actually involved in recording to a finished standard. Who knows, they might re-think how they do things.

    Back came another email, very appreciative of the explanation, promising to contact me if they got a project with a realistic budget.
    It all took a few minutes, and on the whole I feel happier for not having shouted or ignored them – and better still for finding the opportunity to share it here!

    Liked by 1 person

    • J. Christopher Dunn February 9, 2016 / 2:45 pm

      Hi, Howard-

      Yup. That’s it. Keeping the interaction positive can be a challenge but it’s doable. Letting the client make the decision was smart. They’ll be back.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.


  2. Jannie Meisberger February 10, 2016 / 10:37 am

    Chris, thank you very much for such a helpful article. I have sometimes not taken on a project because of having to say ‘no’, and not knowing how to say ‘no, but’. Once again, you’ve provided such a gracious and positive way to handle these instances.


    • J. Christopher Dunn February 10, 2016 / 11:50 am

      Hello Jannie- You’re welcome! It works most of the time. Finding ways to make the client feel they matter on any level is a great way to help build an ongoing relationship with them. I hope my examples inspire you the next time ‘no’ isn’t a good fit.

      Thank you for reading my post and leaving a comment. Come back soon! 🙂


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