How to say no

A few years ago, I reached out asking if I could interview someone whose work I admired. He responded with – “Alas, I can’t do this justice right now.”

When we exchanged a few more notes, he offered to do something else that was much lower effort for him instead. But, I was thrilled with the outcome nevertheless.

I learned a few things from that exchange.

First, he had no business responding to me. It would have been justified if he didn’t. But, he did. That meant a lot.

Second, that “no” felt completely reasonable.

And, finally, that offer to do something that worked for him was also lovely.

It is a learning I’ve applied many times over the years. Every time I receive a request for a call, I respond requesting we do email instead. It isn’t perfect/ideal. But, it is often what I can make work with everything going on.

It is one thing to know you need to say no to stuff and quite another thing to learn how to do it. That exchange taught me how. I remain very grateful for it.