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The Power of “No” – When and How to Say No to Something That Isn’t Right For You

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It’s an interesting aspect of human nature that we all feel an innate pressure to belong. Most people steer away from conflict or tension, and try and avoid confrontation whenever possible. This is often done even to our own detriment.

But why?

One of the most common reasons, whether fully realized or not, is often due to our strong desire to be liked, outweighing our will to do what is truly best for us. And where does this usually lead? Well, to our own unhappiness of course! That is why one of the most important skills you can acquire in your short time on this earth is learning when and how to say “no” to something that isn’t right for you.

While many people struggle with grasping the power of “no” in their every day lives, musicians typically have an especially hard time. We are part of a small, unique community driven by our passion and love for the same thing. It’s hard to tell a peer that you don’t really want to be a part of their band, play on their track, or contribute work for a heavily discounted fee, or worse, for free!

Yet these are some of the common situations we tend to find ourselves in over and over again. I personally spent many years drowning under the pressure of “yes” until I finally gained the self-confidence to set healthy boundaries for myself. My life has been forever changed, and for the better.

We usually have difficulty turning something down out of fear of hurting or offending the other person. However, being disingenuous when saying “yes” to something you should really be saying “no” to, is actually the worst thing you can do to someone else. Because in those situations, your heart is not really in it. And then what happens? Resentment, poor quality contributions, no shows, last-minute cancellations, lack of communication?

All of these things tend to be the unintended result of not being honest with yourself and others in the first place when you commit to something you know really isn’t right for you.

+ Read more on Flypaper: “The Difference Between Good and Bad Feedback.”

So how do you start saying no with confidence and grace? First, be honest with yourself. Ask yourself:

  • Is this the right thing for me, and is this is the right time?
  • Am I the right person for this?
  • Am I able to do what is being asked of me?
  • Am I honoring myself with the presented arrangement?
  • Will I be able to commit fully to the scope of work required?

If the answer is “no” for one or more of these questions, then the next step is how to handle turning down the offer/request. Keep the following ideas at the forefront when doing so:

1. Be grateful for the opportunity.

Whatever it is being asked of you, it’s happening because the other party values something that you do. That’s amazing! Make sure they know you appreciate them thinking of you in the first place.

2. Provide honest feedback.

Whether that means you share that there’s a scheduling conflict on the dates requested, the workload or commitment is more than you can take on right now, the fee is too low, or it just isn’t the right fit for you in general, being candid is always appreciated by people.

It also allows others to learn and be better in many instances, and helps provide a better understanding of what might make more sense to work with on you in the future in ways that you would be more excited about too!

3. Don’t shut the door forever.

It’s best to always leave things open with people whom you want to maintain a connection in the future! Just because something doesn’t work right now doesn’t mean that the future will look exactly the same.

It’s important to handle all of these interactions with kindness and respect, so that when something else comes up down the line, that offer will hopefully still make it’s way over to you so you won’t miss any good opportunities to come!

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Christine Elise Hubbard

Christine Elise Hubbard is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for the music business. In addition to being a vocalist herself, she is the CEO of Lock City Music Group, and the Founder and Executive Director of Hope in Harmony, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that uses music to help and heal those in need. Christine holds a BM in Music Business & Management from Berklee College of Music, and is a member of the Grammy Recording Academy and ASCAP. She has spoken on many music industry panels, has been a contributing writer for music business publications for over a decade, and also currently hosts the music-based web series and podcast, Soundbytez.