Over the past few weeks, several clients and colleagues came to me and said, “I was invited to a meeting with [insert name here] and I’m not sure why we’re meeting.”
I was FLOORED. I know how busy entrepreneurs are. I know how much they value their freedom… how can they afford to take meetings with no clear purpose? And why would they?
In-person meetings take a serious investment of your time, so you must make that investment intentionally. When you invest in the wrong meetings, it wastes hours of your time, creates serious frustration, and keeps you frantic.
The key to investing wisely is to learn how to gracefully say no. Easier said than done, right? Here are a few tips I use to directly and politely say no to unnecessary meetings:
First, don’t automatically say yes to in-person meeting requests! When you receive a request, take a moment to evaluate whether or not there is a clear reason for you to take the time to meet.
Next, clarify the reason for the meeting. For example:
Thanks so much for reaching out to me! So I am clear, what are you hoping to accomplish during our meeting?
Thanks for suggesting we collaborate. Before we meet, what do you have in mind?
I appreciate you thinking of me. What do you want to discuss during our meeting?
Say no thank you or suggest an alternative.
Believe it or not, many times when I’ve asked for clarification, the requester simply does not reply and the issue resolves itself. However if they do reply, here are some diplomatic ways to either say no or suggest a less time-consuming alternative.
Thanks for clarifying. From what you describe, it sounds like what you’re looking to accomplish doesn’t really align with what I’m doing. I appreciate you thinking of me, and I’ll have to pass now.
Great, thanks for the details. I’d love to have this conversation with you, and I’d prefer to meet over the phone. Is that something you’d be open to? For a conversation like this, I find the phone saves us both a ton of time spent on driving.
I’d love to meet, and I’m not available for an in-person meeting for the next three weeks. Would you mind following up with me then?
The most important thing is to say what you mean.
If you are going to keep clear boundaries and consciously invest your time in only the most important things, do not say you’re open to meeting at a later date if you really want to say no. It will definitely come back to bite you!
And here’s the thing: you are not helping anyone by agreeing to do things you don’t want to do. Saying yes to an obligation that aggravates you prevents the requester from finding someone who would actually be excited about the opportunity. Sometimes saying no to someone is the best gift we can give them… not to mention, ourselves!