Early on in our home renovation, I hired a contractor for work he said would take 6 weeks. If you’ve ever done extensive home renovations, you know what’s
coming – 9 months later we fired him and still had holes in the floor down to the dirt under the house and a 2″ gap under an exterior door where he ripped a threshold out on his first day and never replaced it (among many other problems). Way more went wrong than I could ever put in a blog post (or even a series), but the one of the biggest things he did wrong was that he didn’t manage us, his clients.
As the client, it’s not my job to know whether an idea is feasible, realistic or even a good idea; it’s the contractor’s job to know that and steer us accordingly. It’s also his job to say “no” when it’s appropriate or when he can’t fulfill our request. This person said yes all the time and ended up way over his head and we paid the price. What I learned from this is that one of the most important roles you can play is to make sure you manage your work situations so your clients get your best work. More than once, I’ve helped my clients dig out from bad situations caused when they hired someone who didn’t manage the work and much like my contractor got in over their head. It doesn’t serve you or your client if you’re a “yes man.” If saying no to a request is the best for the client and you, then you owe it to both of you to say no.
So how do you say no gracefully and preserve the good relationship between you and your client? Lay the groundwork way ahead of time by being honest and meeting your commitments. If you answer questions about your skills and knowledge honestly from the beginning, your client will respect that and when you opt to say no because something is out of your expertise your client will be grateful you said no. Likewise, if you are selective about what you take on but always deliver your client will trust that you are making a good choice for both of you when you say no.
When it seems warranted, an honest explanation of why you are saying no can help as well. There are loads of good reasons to turn a request down, and sometimes it can be helpful to explain your reasons. Surprisingly though, sometimes people don’t care – they just want your answer so they can move on.
Do you always say yes to keep you clients happy? Have you ever said yes when you shouldn’t? How do you handle saying no? Share your thoughts in the comments.