Saying “NO” is becoming a lost art in the business world. The losers are the people who ditch phone calls, avoid e-mails, and twist and turn themselves into pretzels rather than tell someone they don’t have the job, the project, or five minutes of your time to hear or help them out.

It’s okay to just say NO:

  • You can say NO  to the job applicants who don’t make the cut.
  • You can say NO to the prospective bidders who don’t win the work.
  • You can say NO to the vendor who’s looking for new customers.
  • You can say NO to the consultant who is cold calling.

What you can’t do (or shouldn’t do) is ignore them. Devalue their effort. Treat them as disposable, unworthy of common courtesy.

I make it a priority to answer personalized queries, whether from a company pitching a report, a printer looking for new customers, or a colleague looking for work. In my condo leadership role, I made it a point to personally call the lead attorney at a firm we were about to fire to give him a heads up, and I sent thank you notes to the losing law firms we’d interviewed to replace the old one. Why? Because it was the right thing to do.

If you have the guts to say NO, you gain a competitive edge. Most of us have mental lists of people who have gone out of their way to be helpful–or not. To answer or return phone calls–or not. To give an honest answer to an honest question–or not.

Which list do you want to be on?

Photo by Simon Doggett (Flickr).