As you find your copywriting business getting busier (and it will once you know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and who you’re doing it for), you’ll need to learn how to say no in a yes kind of way.
You don’t need to do that of course, you can just say no and be done with it, but every request you get is an opportunity to build influence, and since influence is what we do, it’s good practice to do so.
Personally, I find the no word exceptionally hard to say, so if you feel the same, read on.
Let’s start with Derek Sivers’ advice: “if you can’t say Hell Yeah! Say no”. When I first heard that, I was in full agreement. It’s a defence to stop yourself becoming overwhelmed and burning out.
It works fine provided your empathy levels are low or non-existent (the non-empathic don’t have a problem saying no). So it’s a protection mechanism for the empathic. But it doesn’t work for the simple reason that empathic people care about other people’s feelings.
One way round it is to let someone else do the dirty work. If you’re an A lister, you’ll need to employ an army of people to cope with requests, so empathic or not, you have little choice.
But for the rest of us, it’s something we have to deal with – and sometimes on a daily basis.
All the great books on diplomacy and how to get on in the world have the same message – keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. There’s more than one good reason for this.
Enemies are enemies. They don’t want you around. So making enemies is not a good way to protect yourself. But perhaps the best known reason is the discovery of information.
Every great piece of copy involved an even greater piece of research. And of all the people you can gain intelligence from, your enemies are right up there. They hold all the secrets (these enemies are your competitors and former prospects with strong objections).
Everyone has connections, but the more enemies you make, the less connections you get, and since it’s said there are seven degrees of separation, you can guarantee your enemies are connected with people who can help you.
So helping your enemies get what they want (provided it doesn’t hurt people if you’re ethical by nature) is a good way to reduce the gap between yourself and who you’re looking for.
Which brings us to the secret of how to say no without saying no.
Start with the moment. If this thing being asked for is to do with right now, the response is “I’d love to, but I’m busy right now.”. The ‘but’ is the no.
This has problems though. If your real reply should have been “I’d love to, but not during my lifetime.”, and they follow up with: “OH. OK, no problem, what about tomorrow?”, you’re in a double-bind of your own making. The sort of thing that keeps empaths worrying all night.
We’re getting to the heart of the problem now. Remember this: all requests are about time, never the moment.
Decide whether what is being asked for will fit in with what you want for the rest of your life. If the answer is yes, but not right now, you can cheerfully deliver the news without guilt.
If the answer is no. Then answer “I’m so tied up with what I do, I have no time right now for anything else. I’m truly sorry.”.
The ‘right now’ bit is empathic. It keeps the door open, but not for the foreseeable future. That means a “Oh, what about next week?” isn’t going to work (they may still ask though – in which case repeat your first answer without the ‘right now’).
And as for the white lie “I’m truly sorry”, that’s optional. Is it OK to lie? Answer this: “how far are you prepared to go to get what you want?”
PS. True empaths know when another person can accept a no without prejudice, in which case, a no is the right thing to say.