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How To Say “No”

By Adam Bush on December 3, 2018

Allow me to paint a picture for you of one of the most FRUSTRATING situations storytellers/video people, really anyone who does creative work can be in:

Your supervisor comes back from a big meeting you were not attending. He is so excited about a new project that YOU get to do. It’s a big project with a quick turn around time, requires a lot of pre-production, production, and post-production. The worst part: it’s a great idea. You’re thinking, “This is a lot of work. I haven’t even finished the opener video for this weekend. Not to mention the announcements we are filming tomorrow that haven’t been written yet.” This is a problem. You respond with, “Not gonna happen. It won’t work because of X, Y, and Z.”

And there’s silence.

He’s thinking, “Uh…what do you mean, no and why aren’t you excited?” You’re thinking, “Do you realize what you’re asking?”

Now, there’s a lot I could talk about in regards to people not really understanding each others’ jobs or not knowing others’ schedules, but let’s hone in on one thing that can help us all. When we respond to our supervisor or client IMMEDIATELY with reasons why a project won’t work, it diminishes our relationship. Even if you win the argument and don’t end up doing the project, the other party walks away frustrated; and when you think about it, you actually didn’t win, you lost.

So here are 2 ways to respond to protect your work relationships and your family.

Response 01

“Awesome! Have you seen this video SNL did? Maybe there’s something we could pull from there. Maybe it’ll bring clarity to the idea.”

People who practice improv comedy follow a strict rule of, “Yes, and…” Someone “hands” me something and says it’s a gun, I’m not allowed to say, “This isn’t a gun,” because we’re building each scene on top of the previous and to say NO kills the momentum. I think that rule is good for working together in the storytelling world as well.

Response 02

“Can I have an hour to look at our schedule to see how we can make this work?

It’s difficult for someone to hear your reason for not being able to work on a project if you don’t have real data to back it up. Saying, “We’re too busy,” doesn’t give my supervisor real, concrete handles to understand. Additionally, he can’t go to his boss, or your pastor, and say, “We’re just too busy.” He can, however, understand and fight for you if he’s able to respond with, “We have a shoot tomorrow, then we’re editing all day Thursdays and Friday we’ll be doing pre-production for next week’s shoot.” Taking some time to go through your upcoming projects not only allows you to gather data but lets your supervisor know, “Well, at least they looked into it.” You also might find a way to bump something and actually make the project happen.

When you follow these ideas, rarely do you end up actually producing the video idea that was originally brought in, for better or worse, but you make something that’s often easier and more effective, or you figure out another way to accomplish the goal. The biggest win, though, is in the relationship. My supervisor appreciates how I’m a part of the team, I don’t just say NO, and I’m invested in what we’re doing.

Give it a shot, let us know how it works, and happy storytelling.

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