How To Back Out Gracefully

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How to say no when you’ve already committed to something — it’s definitely a sticky situation. It doesn’t have to be awkward, though. In this video, you’ll learn how to gracefully back out of something you’ve already said yes to — and why being honest is always the best idea.

First, ask yourself if flaking out on commitments is a habit for you. Are you always canceling on things you’ve said yes to? If it’s something you always do, it’s time to suck it up and get the work done.

Sometimes, though, you do need to back out of a commitment. Here’s how to do it gracefully:

1. Be Honest — Don’t Tell Little White Lies. It’s tempting to say you’ve got a stomach bug as a way to back out of a commitment, but don’t do it. You can never go wrong with the truth when you’re trying to figure out how to say no to some over-commitments.

Here’s a script you can follow if email is the best way to back out of something:

I’m writing with a sticky situation today. As you know, back in September I agreed to write the curriculum for the girls’ mentorship program. When I said yes, I fully believed I had the bandwidth to do a great job. In October, though, I was lucky enough to get a full-time position. While this is amazing, it also drastically changed my schedule. It pains me to say this, but I need to step down from this commitment. The girls deserve an incredible curriculum and I’m sorry I’m not able to deliver as I thought I would. I apologize for causing the program an inconvenience and, likely a delay. Let me know if there are any questions I can answer or another way I can support the program moving ahead.

2. Get On The No Train. If you haven’t heard of the “No Train” it simply means giving yourself permission to turn down requests on your time. You can do this for a set amount of time with the goal to help break your pattern of overcommitting.

If saying no outright isn’t appropriate, you can say, “Let me think about that and get back to you in a few days.” This is one method of how to say no when you don’t want to overcommit.

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