Can’t, or Won’t?

2010 May 3

I had a conversation with a friend last week where he mentioned that he’d made a proposal to a business owner and was told “we have no way to compensate you that way.” Then my friend smiled and shook his head.

What does it mean to me when you tell me you “can’t” do something that I’ve asked you to do? It says, to me anyway, that not only you have declined my request, you’ve decided not to tell me why. I may be OK with that, but unfortunately I might also fill that empty space with some assumed bad news about our relationship. That’s just human nature.

I’m all for hard-nosed business and competition. If you succeed because you have a better idea, or outwork your competition, or just run your business better, you deserve it. There are undoubtedly a lot of things you’re asked to do that just don’t make sense for your business. It’s your decision and your right to make those calls. So the next time you need to tell me “no”, you have every right to do say you “can’t.” But be honest, respect my intelligence, and tell me you “won’t.” And if you respect me as someone you want to do business with, be transparent and tell me why.

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