By saying no to opportunities that do not serve personal and business goals, it creates time to pursue ones that do.

    In a previous column, I wrote about decision fatigue and the importance of creating criteria that helps streamline the decision-making process. Once this is done, it becomes easy to discern what opportunities to say no to.

    Saying no can also help prevent a concept called “gunnysacking.” This is a concept in psychology that refers to piling up items of stress, resentment and irritations in a hypothetical ‘gunnysack’ until it is overflowing and there is no more room for anything else in there (Bach & Byden, 1970; Baker, 2012). It is like “the straw that broke the camel’s back” analogy. A more current analogy would be to fill up your entrepreneurial bandwidth with too much information, commitments and opportunities. By saying no on a regular basis to things which are not consistent with your criteria and goals, it frees up and keeps bandwidth open for you to use. So, the chances that signs of stress and resentments coming out sideways decrease.

    In this interconnected age full of social media and such, as an entrepreneur, it’s also important to say no tactfully. You never know when a meaningful relationship can turn into a successful business partnership. Also, it can be very hard to recover a positive reputation as a result of a social media blast as a result of a hasty and harsh NO.

    Of course, there are times when a complete NO is called for. It is important to use discernment on when this is necessary. A key here is to think…

    “No” is a complete sentence. “No thank you” is a more tactful, diplomatic sentence.

    Having said that, here are “5 ways to say no without ever using the word no:”

    1. Being too busy: If the reason you are saying no is because your time has already been accounted for, just say so! Express your calendar is too full to take on new commitments. It can be helpful to state you take your commitments seriously and want to be able to follow through with high standards. You wouldn’t want to spread yourself too thin, which leads to the next one.

    2. The timing isn’t right: Sometimes an opportunity comes that seems like a good fit, but the timing isn’t right. In this case, you can be honest with the person providing the opportunity. You can thank the person and let him/her know you will reach out to them when you’re ready. Alternatively, you can ask them to follow up with you in a certain amount of time (30, 60 or 90 days). Perhaps some of your other commitments will come to an end or you can make time if the opportunity is sensible for your business. The caveat here is to make sure you are genuine. No sense in telling someone to reach back out to you, when it truly isn’t a good fit!

    3. Delegate or refer: If the opportunity doesn’t fit, chances are you know someone who it’s right for. In this case, refer. This works well for a couple of reasons. You’ve also helped another business out by referring to them. **If you’re referring to other businesses, it’s important that they are ones you trust and respect.** This can create a cross-referral situation for your business. You’ve also helped out the person who’s asked for your business because they have someone else to go to. Sometimes, they’ll refer to you too, because they’ve had a positive experience with you.

    4. Budget and monetary reasons: If the opportunity isn’t in your budget, saying no is simpler (but sometimes not any easier)! Simply let the individual know your budget doesn’t accommodate this. They may try to say the opportunity will help improve revenue, and then you can get firm and repeat the same sentence, “Sorry my budget doesn’t accommodate this.”

    5. Looping around the same sentence: If you chose one sentence and “loop it” (repeat it several times), eventually, the person providing the opportunity will move on.

    A final tip is to practice these techniques. You can choose people on your team or people who you’re comfortable with. This may feel and sound silly but comes in handy. It’s no different than practicing spotting and queuing techniques, sales statements and fitness presentations. The more you do it, the more you will get used to it and become a habit.