The Art of Saying No

One of the hardest things for me to do is to say “no” to people. It gets me in all sorts of trouble, too. I get over-committed, over-booked, over-stressed in an effort to please everyone all the time.

It’s a common problem – I know lots of people for whom saying “no” is the worst thing they could possibly do. However, there are times when saying “no” is exactly what I need to do. The crazy thing is, 99.9% of the times I have ever said “no” to someone, it’s totally okay. There’s none of the backlash, hurt feelings, and disappointment that I often make up in my own head.

As I get more busy in my business, my personal life and as I continue to grow my online network, I find I am having to say “no” more often. Don’t get me wrong…I have absolutely no issue with helping people when they ask me for it. In fact, I enjoy helping people. That’s why I do it. But there comes a point, where, if it’s too much for me to balance with my job, my family etc., that I have to say that nasty “no”.

I’ve learned that there are techniques for saying “no” gracefully. And the number one way to say “no” to someone nicely is to communicate with them. Seems kind of backwards, since you’re trying to NOT have to do something, but communication is the vital key.

Don’t Ignore. Ignoring and avoidance is the worst thing you can do. The problem with ignoring someone when you should be saying “no” to them is that they think you don’t care. If someone sends you a request or asks you a favour and you just can’t accommodate, better to send a polite response saying why you are unable to fulfill their request than not to respond at all.

What if Volume is an Issue? Feeling overwhelmed by all the people wanting a piece of you? We’ve all been there. I have weeks where my inbox is chock full of people wanting something from me. My voice mail is also full. It’s pretty overwhelming, and my first instinct is to run away and hide. How to deal with volume requests? Well, I hooked up AwayFind on my email, that at least helps me to determine what requires my urgent attention and what doesn’t. But the man who has this one cased is the inimitable Gary Vaynerchuk. You see, if you send Gary an email, he sends you an automated reply. Now, before you go getting all bent out of shape about automated replies..check out what he sends:

Hey, here’s a link that will explain everything!

http://tv.winelibrary.com/garyvs-inbox

Thank you
Gary Vaynerchuk

Click on the link. You get Gary, on a video, explaining how he deals with email, and asking for people’s help in helping him manage his correspondence. He provides contacts for all his online outposts, and contacts for his “people” too. He is saying “no”, and doing it in a personable, polite way.

Delegate delegate delegate. Trying to keep up with responding to everything all the time is impossible if you’re super busy. So find ways to filter information to people who can more easily and quickly help. In essence, what you are doing here is saying “No, I can’t help you, but I’m referring you to this person who I trust to help you.” Of course, you want to make sure that the person you are delegating to is available and willing to say “yes”. Delegation is hard to do – but it’s worth it, always. Just make sure that you have people you absolutely trust on board…because every time you delegate, it’s still your reputation that’s on the line.

So there you have it – these are a few interesting ways that I’ve learned about how to politely decline. We all have times that we have to say “no” to people, and it’s never easy. Please share some techniques that you use when you need to say “no” in the comments.

Oh, and by the way – if you say “no” to someone politely and they get mad at you, start flaming you, or have an otherwise negative reaction, before you feel bad about it…consider whether they were worth helping in the first place.

On Thankfulness

I have a serious attitude problem. I have a tendency sometimes, to focus on what I DON’T have, instead of what I DO have. I’m sure we all do this from time to time. It’s easy to get wrapped up in this kind of self talk: “If only I had THIS, then I could do THIS.” “I don’t have that, so I can’t be happy”.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S. I’ve never really thought much about this holiday (our Thanksgiving is in October here in Canada), but I’m seeing so much discussion about it in my social networks, that it’s made me sit back and reflect too.

My reflections are further emphasized by the fact that this year, U.S. Thanksgiving Day is also my birthday. As Americans sit down to celebrate with their families, I too will be celebrating with my family and friends.

I’ve realized this morning that I need to give myself a bit of an attitude adjustment. That being grateful for what one has isn’t about a holiday, or a birthday, but that gratefulness should be a theme throughout life.

So, as of this very moment, I will no longer worry about what I don’t have. I will focus on what I do have:

My health and the health of my family. I am blessed to have a loving, wonderful family who are healthy and happy. I too, am blessed to have my own health and well being.

My friends. Tomorrow will be a day of celebration for me, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to have amazing friends who want to share that celebration with me.

My work. I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to follow my passion. I owe that opportunity to my parents, who always encouraged us to follow our dreams, and to my husband, who works so hard in order to give me the opportunity to make my dream come true.

So that’s it. It’s out there. No more focusing on lack. Only focusing on the abundance I already have.

What are you thankful for?

5 Fun Facts

This morning I logged on to Twitter and saw that I had been tagged by the lovely Barb Chamberlain of BiketoWorkBarb to produce a list of five things people might not know about me. The original idea came from my newest and coolest Twitter friend Dominick Evans, who sees the real value in doing an exercise like this. The concept is, tell 5 things about yourself, then tag (meaning link) to 5 other people so they can do the same. Not only do you learn some new things about folks, but you are also helping others to make new connections through the links you post. It’s a cool idea, don’t you think? So, here’s my list! Stick around till the end of the post, the most interesting stuff is there – the links to the 5 people I’m tagging (who you should all check out because THEY ROCK).

5 Fun Facts About Suzemuse

1. I’m a military brat. My Dad was in the Canadian Armed Forces for 36 years. Because of the kind of job he had, we ended up in some pretty unique and far away places, including Inuvik, NWT, and Masset on the Queen Charlotte Islands in B.C. It was fun growing up in these isolated, small communities. I didn’t get to do a lot of things other kids did, like go to McDonalds, hang out at shopping malls, and watch TV – because we didn’t have those things. As a result, I became very resourceful, finding ways to fill my days with music, art, and books. To this day I’d rather read a book or play music than sit in front of the TV. (Ironic that I’ve spent much of my career actually making TV!)

2. I couldn’t cook until about 7 years ago. I’m a total foodie, and I have the waistline to prove it. When I was growing up, my mom tried and tried to get me interested in cooking. But I’d have nothing of it. As a result, when I moved out on my own, I could barely boil an egg. I managed on frozen dinners and canned soup for several years, and I could make spaghetti so if I had a boy over at least I didn’t look completely silly. Then I met my husband. This man can cook! I was being treated to eggs florentine, hand made ravioli, and other fancy delights on a regular basis. I think it was pretty much through osmosis, but he helped me to become more confident in the kitchen. And, he is happy to play guinea pig to my culinary wizardry (we have been forced to order pizza on more than one occasion).

3. I have a tattoo. Yup, got it a few years ago. It’s on my lower back – a funky sun-bursty kind of thing. Thinking about getting another one too (sorry Mom!). I think it runs in the family – my Dad, my brother and my husband all have tattoos. Only one that doesn’t have one is my Mom. But we’re working on her.

4. I met the Barenaked Ladies before they got famous. I used to produce a local music show at the community access station. It is the best job in the world to have when you are 25. I got paid to run around town, interview bands, go to free concerts and hang out backstage. We did a lot of stuff with local bands which was great. Every now and again I’d get to interview someone famous (Davy Jones, The Sweet, Los Lobos, to name a few) which was always so fun. But the ones that were the most memorable to me, were the people I got to meet who were yet to be famous. My reporter called me to go down to this tiny club in downtown Ottawa to do an interview. They had a weird name – Barenaked Ladies. So off I went, camera gear in tow. The guys we were to interview were named Steve and Ed. They looked about 15 years old. During the interview they told us that they were so happy to finally be breaking out of Toronto and hoped that they’d be able to come back to Ottawa some day. Then they got on stage and started playing “Be My Yoko Ono”, and it just about blew my mind. The next time they came back to Ottawa, they were playing a sold out stadium.

5. I almost flunked English. When I was in high school, I had two subjects that I was just awful at – Math and English. My grammar was so bad that I had to take special tutoring after school until I stopped dangling my participles. My English teacher told me that I would never be a good writer and that I might as well stick to music. Anyone who knows me knows the best way to get me to do something is to tell me I can’t do it. So I set about learning to write, almost from scratch. As a result, I ended up having a career as a writer – I write TV shows and web sites, do technical writing, proposal writing and write this blog. My grammar is still far from perfect, but I so love to write. As for my math skills – they are now and will always be horrific.

Now for the fun part!!!

I’m tasking these 5 special people to submit their lists. You need to check them all out, because they are superstars.

Ryan Anderson – The New PR. Ryan has great perspective on the world of new media and PR and there’s always something new popping up on his blog. And he’s fun at parties, too!

Bob LeDrew – Bob is also fun at parties. What’s cool is he makes his own, and invites musicians. Bob and his wife run Bobcat House Concerts, and I can’t tell you how awesome these concerts are. If you don’t live in Ottawa, you’ll have to find someone in your town that does this, and GO!

Maggie McGary aka mizz information – I’m totally hooked on Maggie’s blog. She brings passion and humour to the world of social media and I just plain like her.

Robert Hruzek, Middle Zone Musings – Robert says on his blog that he doesn’t usually do the meme thing. But this is an opportunity to tell some stories, something Robert does exceptionally well. I hope he makes an exception this time!

Karen Putz, A Deaf Mom Shares Her World – Karen and I have been Twitter pals for some time, and I love to read her blog – it’s so insightful! Karen does so much to promote awareness around the deaf community and I’m so glad she shares her story through this blog.

Random Suzemusings

Just some stuff I’ve been thinking about tonight:

  • Will any of this political stuff still matter to people in a month, two months, six months, once the media circus dies down? Or will we just go on about our lives?
  • Will I ever be able to play barre chords without a big pause in between to reset my fingers?
  • If people start to bail on Twitter because of ad schemes like #magpie, will people just find another Twitter? 
  • Why are more Canadians talking about the U.S. election than talked about our own election? 
  • Are we spending too much time analyzing everything and not enough time doing actual stuff?
  • If I was going to live somewhere other than Ottawa, I’d live (in no particular order) in Calgary, Halifax, St. John’s, Cincinnati, Boston or Melbourne.
  • I have exactly 23 days left to be 37, and exactly 23 days to figure out how I am going to make 38 the best year yet. I’m open to suggestions.
  • I wonder if flannel pajamas will ever be socially acceptable as business attire. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
  • Do people use things like Twitter because they are interested in other people’s lives or interested in telling the world how interesting their life is. Or both?
  • Why do we spend so much time wondering what’s coming next? Maybe we should focus more on what’s happening now. 

That’s it. My stream of consciousness substituting for a blog post tonight. Feel free to contribute your own musings in the comments. I’ll be back soon with a real post.

Why Angle is Important

I love the way Oliver Stone shoots his movies. Every shot has about 4 or 5 different meanings. The more times you watch the film, the more you pick up on those meanings. 

Last night, hubby and I went to see “W.“. Aside from being a brilliant and, in my opinion, Oscar worthy film, it was, for me, the TV and film geek, a study in camera angles. One thing that was blatantly clear to me was that whenever Stone did a scene with George Bush Sr. (James Cromwell), he shot Cromwell from a low camera angle, looking up. This was particularly noticeable in scenes where Cromwell and W (Josh Brolin) appeared together. 

Shooting someone from a low angle makes them look larger than life. It also makes them appear powerful. Stone’s angle choice was intentional and ironic – it served to make the junior Bush, the most powerful man in the world, appear weak only in the eyes of one man – his father. 

The angle at which we view our lives, be it personal or professional, is no different. If we constantly view things from below, looking up at other people who appear more popular, more successful, more wealthy, or more happy than us, then we impose upon ourselves feelings of incompetence, self doubt, depression. Conversely, if we come at things from above, looking down on others who we perceive to be less intelligent, less successful, less competent, we then impose upon ourselves an irrational sense of superiority. 

However, if we come at life straight on, on an even level with everyone else, then a few interesting things happen. We stop comparing ourselves to everyone else. Nobody is better, nobody is worse. We stop making assumptions about other people and instead just get to know them for who they are. We no longer feel as if people are judging us. We feel good about what we have to offer and excited about what other people have to offer too. 

Next time you meet someone, consider the angle at which you are looking at them. Are you up high looking down, so you can feel better about yourself? Are you down low, so you lack confidence and feel judged? If your angle is off, you need to change it. You need to set your angle at eye level with that other person. Only then can you truly be yourself, and allow them to do the same. Only then, can you be open to whatever comes your way.

To Vote or Not To Vote

Over the past several weeks of this Canadian election campaign, I’ve spoken to plenty of people about voting. What I’m continuously surprised by is the number of people who are not planning to vote. Perhaps I shouldn’t be that surprised. The voter turnout for the last election in 2006 was just 64.7 % (source: Elections Canada Online). Now, some may say “that’s not bad”, but compare this to France, whose voter turnout in their last election in 2007 was almost 84%, or, the United States, who, in the 2004 presidential election had an 88% voter turnout (source: IFES Election Guide). 64% doesn’t seem so great anymore, does it?

Why is there such voter apathy in our country? Why is nearly 40% of the population so disinterested in our democratic process? Well, the people I’ve talked to give various excuses. So I’ve decided to compile a list of the reasons I’ve heard for NOT voting, and my reasons FOR voting.

Excuse #1: I Don’t Have Time. Ah, yes. We are all so busy! How could we possibly find time to go vote on Tuesday, when we’ve got kids to get to school, deadlines at work, and myriad other things keeping us away from the polling stations? Well, I’ve got news for you. Firstly, the polling stations are open for 12 hours straight – from 7am to 7pm. Secondly, the Elections Canada Act states clearly that employers MUST give their employees 3 consecutive hours off to vote on election day. Of course, there are exceptions. But I’ve worked lots of jobs in lots of industries, and I’ve never once had an employer forbid me from leaving the office so I could go and vote. Thirdly, if you have your voter card and a piece of I.D., it literally takes 3 minutes to vote. Even if there’s a lineup. I worked for Elections Canada at a polling station one year, and I can tell you, it is a well-oiled machine. So, there’s one excuse, and three reasons why it’s no excuse. Next….

Excuse #2: I Don’t Like Any of the Parties. Probably the most common excuse I hear for not voting is that there’s nobody worth voting for. “All the politicians are full of crap”, “I don’t agree with anyone’s policies”, “I don’t like this guy/that girl”. Look, nobody is asking you to agree with EVERY SINGLE part of a particular party’s platform. No party is perfect. There are always going to be things that can and should change. Here’s my suggestion – take some time and read up on all the parties’ platforms. Find the party that you can relate to the MOST. The one who you have the tendency to agree with mostly. Vote for them. And the things you don’t agree with? Well, if that party gets into power, you’ll have a chance to write a letter to the guy or girl you voted for, and tell him or her why you think Policy A or Policy B stinks. And what you’d like him or her to do to change it. That, my friends, is democracy at work! 

Excuse #3: My Vote Won’t Count. Imagine that! I’ve actually heard this on a number of occasions. Consider if everyone thought the same way-nobody would vote! Yes, yours is just one vote. But your vote is just as important as anyone else’s vote. And if you really are considering not voting because you don’t think it matters, then think about this. Millions and millions of people around the world do not have the right to choose who leads their country. Every day, people die fighting for the basic right that we in democratic nations take for granted. Every day, innocent people are imprisoned, tortured or killed for disagreeing with the government in power. Consider yourself insanely fortunate that you live in a country where you can freely choose the people that represent you in government. And if you can’t cast a vote for your own reasons on election day, cast a vote in honour of those people who may never get the chance to exercise this basic human right. 

Still disagree with me? Let me have it in the comments – but hope to see you at the polls on Tuesday anyway.

Grateful

It’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. It’s the height of Autumn, the trees are a fiery glow on the brightest of blue skies. The breeze is crisp, but the last of summer’s warmth can still be felt in the sun.

Fall is my favourite time of year, not just for the beautiful days, but because it signifies change. Sleepy summer afternoons make way for the bountiful harvest of Fall. Thoughts of pumpkin pie, comfort food, and even the still distant Christmas season fill my head.

I’ve been working really hard these past few weeks. Well it’s good to be busy, especially since I’m my own boss, it’s nice to have this peaceful Saturday to sit back and reflect. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’ve compiled a list of all the things I am grateful for:

I am grateful for:

  • My family. For their love, and their unwavering support and faith in me. 
  • My little nephews. They are growing up to be healthy, happy, terrific kids. 
  • The fact that my friends have healthy, happy, terrific kids too. 
  • My husband. He makes our home my soft spot to land in the midst of all the craziness. 
  • My pets. Four little heartbeats that fill my house with fur and chaos, but mostly love. 
  • My best friend and business partner. It’s so rare to have both in the same person – we know we are very fortunate. 
  • The Internet. Yes, the Internet. Because if not for the Internet I would have never met my husband, I would not have my dream career, and I would not have gotten to know all of you. 
Thank you for reading this blog. I’m grateful to have this little corner of the Internet, where I can share with you what’s going on inside my head. I’m thrilled that you take the time out of your busy lives to come here and read, and share your own thoughts. 
Happy Thanksgiving!
What are you grateful for?