It’s a crappy feeling when we’ve asked someone a direct question and encouraged them to feel free to say ‘no’ and then we get no response at all in return. I’ve heard people say silence is an acceptable answer. I don’t think so. I think it’s cowardly and embarrassing. Because if you had enough confidence to be silent you have enough confidence to respectfully communicate with the person doing the asking.
Silence is fear-based. It’s actually not self-respectful. It still says no but makes for an awkwardness between the parties. It shows no sense of healthy ego.
Being able to politely say no is an art form. I know people who can fire people and make the person being fired feel just fine. Being able to say no and not burn your bridges is really necessary for this industry. Learn how to do it well. Stop avoiding it. When you can be honest with someone and simply say no the other person can retain their respect for you and feel that you have respected them. When you just try to act like you weren’t approached to begin with, it makes you look very, very amateurish and weak.
Now other people, in an effort not to feel guilty I think, say no in an extremely aggressive style that just makes them seem – excuse my French – bitchy. It always seems to me that response also shows no sense of healthy ego. If someone has to be aggressive in saying no, it’s as if they need to use that heavy attitude as a shield.
So when you need to decline, find a way to respectfully say no and retain respect on both sides. It will serve you well and get easier the more you do it.