When “No” Is a Favor

Three weeks ago, the traffic analytics on one of my websites broke. Software can be like light bulbs: One day the fuse glows, the next it blows.

I checked the obvious places without luck. It was time to hire an expert. My go-to guy for web development said: “Sure, I can do it.” Except he couldn’t. He fiddled with the code, told me to wait a day, disappeared for two more, then came back clueless. “The code is there. It should work.”

More back and forth later than I care to admit, I created a new job posting, hired an analytics expert, and literally within five minutes, I was back up and running.

One lesson here is that $50 can have an infinite ROI if you measure it against the cognitive load you accumulate from a small problem over the course of three weeks. The other is that unless you’re convinced you can help both quickly and completely, you should probably say no.

My initial contact is great in moving websites, cyber security, and speed issues – but he’s not the king of analytics. “No, I’m not the right person” would have been a huge favor. I’d have found someone else immediately.

Once people see us as reliable, we want to maintain that status. It is false, however, to assume we’ll only keep it if they can rely on us in any situation. Boundaries are helpful when established early and communicated clearly. “I’ll edit any text you send me, but don’t bother calling me when you move.”

“No” often feels like you’re letting someone down, but if you turn it into a sign that points them in the right direction, it can be a true act of service – and it’ll always beat a half-hearted “Yes.”