Picture this: You are a consultant and your most important customer offers you a deal. Instead of consulting, she wants you to work full time as an employee. There’s just one problem. Your hourly rate would go down dramatically. And there are no health care benefits. This full-time, lower-pay job means no time for other work. Sounds like a quick “no,” right? Would you agonize over the decision, and perhaps agonize over how to respond to the offer?
The real challenge in a situation like this is that you are having a tough time saying “no.”
This was recently an issue for a consultant. She recognized there wasn’t a whole lot of upside for her in the proposal. Yet she was struggling to say “no.” Why? I think women have a hard time saying “no.” That’s a shame — and it’s a difficulty that takes a big toll on their emotions, too.
This consultant said that for the entire weekend she couldn’t stop thinking about how the executive director was offering her this lousy deal. Yet, she couldn’t help but feel guilty! Here’s how we women can work through these situations.
Rule number 1: If someone is offering you a lousy deal, first realize that this person has no problem taking advantage of you. This means that in return you have the right to refuse their deal. That realization immediately takes away the guilt. It always surprises me when women feel so guilty when someone tries to push a bad deal on them. Why do we feel this guilt? We think we should help everyone. Well, ladies, you don’t have to help everyone — and especially not people who want to take advantage of you.
Rule number 2: Never penalize someone for trying to take advantage of you. Are you angry that someone is trying to take advantage of you? Don’t waste your emotions. In such situations I consider that it’s my job to protect myself. In the case of the consultant agonizing over the lousy job offer, the association’s executive director had no trouble trying to push the consultant around. The executive director gets points for asserting herself. The consultant gets points only if she takes care of herself.
So here’s how to say “no:” You let the other person save face. You don’t criticize them for offering a bad deal. Instead you say, “I carefully considered your deal, but I can’t accept it. I really want to maintain my independence.” Or you make another statement with “I” in it that explains why you won’t be able to accept the deal.
So get rid of the guilt. Some people will offer you good deals — deals that are good for them. There will also be people in business who will try to put their interests ahead of yours and try to get you to accept that. Just make sure you are ready for them when they come your way. You’ve got to be able to give them an answer when they try. The answer had better be “no.”