"No" is a complete sentence, but it can take many people decades to learn how to say it.
Last week at the Forbes Women's Summit in New York, Ina Garten, the best-selling cookbook author and host of the Food Network's "Barefoot Contessa," stressed the importance of being selective in the opportunities you pursue.
"When you're young, you say 'yes' to everything," said Garten. "At some point, you start making choices."
When Garten was building her specialty food business, she said she accepted every opportunity that came her way because she wasn't sure what would be most interesting or successful.
Once she got to know herself and the business better, she started to be more strategic.
Now, "I'm getting a reputation for saying 'no' to everything," she joked.
She said she's gotten to a place where she can say, "OK, my brand is about fun and community, and dog food doesn't fit into that right now."
Being decisive about what to turn down frees her up to spend time on the projects she values most.
How do you say "no" without damaging the relationship? Brian de Haaff, cofounder and CEO of Aha! Labs Inc, recommends you:
- Define your vision, so you can quickly decide which requests distract from it and which reinforce it.
- Make sure you understand the request, which signals that you value the other person and their time.
- Respond quickly, so that you don't leave the requester in limbo for long.
- And explain why, which helps the requester understand where you're coming from.