Part of being a CFO is telling people “No.”
But you’d rather let folks down gently when you do say No.
Here are three keys to turning down requests with the utmost of tact:
1. Let ’em know you hear ’em
First acknowledge the request. For example: “I realize this is an important issue to you.”
Customer service professionals will tell you the biggest key to defusing an angry, frustrated customer is letting the customer rant about the problem, then saying, “I can see how that would frustrate anyone.”
The same principle goes for listening to a problem you can’t solve or handle right now.
2. Explain your reasoning
There’s nothing wrong with explaining why your answer must be No.
Keep it brief if need be. No need to apologize for your busy schedule.
In many cases, you just don’t have the time or resources to facilitate a reasonable request. So ask the person if it’s an issue you can come back to in 30 days, 90 days, whatever it may be.
Make it clear you’re not saying Yes – you’re only reconsidering the request down the road.
3. Turn the ‘No’ around
You can also give the person a way of solving the problem himself.
For example: “Have you checked with so-and-so about it?” Or “Maybe this resource can help you.”
Some folks would rather run to know problem-solvers like yourself than spend time figuring out how to fix the problem themselves.