One day she called me for some advice. She had been “put on the spot,” and now she was fuming angry.
A new massage client (a friend of a friend) had called her while on the way to his massage with her. He told her that since his new CD had just been released, he had decided to “do a trade” with her and pay for part of his massage with his new CD.
Surprised (and not wanting to seem ungracious), Rebecca said, “Okay.”
The only problem was this: She didn’t want the CD.
Now, by the time she called me, the transaction had already occurred, and at first I was just helping with Anger Management.
But then I told her that the gift of this situation is that it teaches us how to say no. And the easiest “no” is a Preemptive No.
What’s a Preemptive No?
Well, in this case, Rebecca recognized that she had to begin creating an “Operations Manual.” In it, she would write down some simple policies like, “I don’t do trades for my massages.”
That way, when she gets any other phone call from a musician with a new CD (or a similar situation), Rebecca can find the language to say, “You know, I’m flattered that you want to offer me your new CD, but my policy is that I don’t trade for massages. I hope we can still work together.” The script is already there, and she doesn’t have to flounder while trying to “think up” an excuse so that she seems nice.
I’ve had to initiate similar Preemptive No’s in my own Operations Manual.
For instance, as I became more successful in my music, I began getting about five offers a month to do benefit concerts for non-profits all over the country. I often said yes out of guilt. But the problem was that most of the concerts were badly organized, and I didn’t like doing them at all.
Finally, I created a Preemptive No. I limited the number of benefit concerts I performed to TWO a year. And I only worked with special interest groups that were aligned with my passions. (The environment, animals, etc.) That way, my office had the language to politely say “no” without feeling “put on the spot.”
The Personal Preemptive No
You can also create Preemptive No’s for your personal life. You can set “policies” about your time or your entertainment choices or what kind of parties you want to attend or not.
My husband and I created an unwritten policy that we don’t go out on Sunday nights. We both realized that we love to spend Sunday night at home preparing for the coming week and going to bed early.
Now, this doesn’t mean we don’t occasionally go out on Sunday nights. But we always measure our response with our policy first. It gives us time to think clearly about our priorities, rather than just ending up going somewhere we don’t really want to be.
Take some time to consider creating some Preemptive No’s that honor your priorities. What would they be?
One final note: The holidays seem to be a time of expectation and guilt for many people. Can you create at least ONE Preemptive No before this holiday season? What would it be?
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