After many weeks of being fully immersed in generating an attractive deal flow for AUDEAMUS, preparing various Head of Agreements and formalizing a couple of Due Diligences, I thought I could proudly announce a new deal.

Unfortunately this is not the case (yet), although that might change pretty soon. Independently of the above, for me personally, the hardest part of last months' workload, has been to say no to a couple of interesting projects, or, better said, to say no to the people presenting those projects.

Allow me to digress: last year I read Lois P. Frankel’s book “Nice girls don’t get the corner office – 101 unconscious mistakes women make that sabotage their careers”. First of all, let me assure you: the book is terrific (and believe me, I am very critical with this “kind of books”). Secondly, I recommended it to several women and everyone of them agrees with me on the sharpness and fineness of Mrs. Frankel’s observations. Thirdly (and finally), although months later I hardly remember a handful of the 101 mistakes she describes, I am sure that women’s tendency is to say yes to new requests (sometimes because female thinking dictates that it is impolite to say no, other simply because females really believe they can accept dead-end assignments and get triumphal ahead) and in the extreme their inability to say no, was behind various of those 101 mistakes.

Although I have no secret recipe to go through those situations unaffected, here are a couple of tips I try to follow:

  1. Although voicing both the pros and cons is a crucial exercise, giving credence to your initial instinct is usually even better.
  2. Explain your constraints before saying no: rejection without given context implies often an unreasonable request or a problem with the one asking.
  3. Say yes to the person and not to the task: make sure the requestor understands first how positive you feel about them, despite the requested task (project financing in AUDEAMUS’ case) cannot be accommodated.
  4. Make sure your words are non-defensive but clearly stated: no one wins when a requestor reads your softly spoken no as a yes or a maybe. On the other hand, too long, detailed explanations are usually read as defensive or confrontational. The answer should be strong and non-emotional. Just say no clearly, and smile as you say it.

The challenge remains to master the art of saying no with the same conviction and passion we instinctively use in saying yes.