Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Art of Saying No

Sometimes, we receive too many requests on which to expend our time and resources, for example, one more committee assignment, one more request to review a manuscript. At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Robin Bernstein offers suggestions for politely deflecting these requests. (I admit that I rarely say no and pay the price.). You may agree with some of these strategies (abridged):

Volunteer someone else — strategically. [For example] "I received your invitation to review ‘Boring Manuscript’ for Obscure Journal. Unfortunately, I have too many reviewing tasks on my plate right now, and I’m unable to add this one. Professor So-and-So at X University has published on this topic, and would be an ideal reviewer for this manuscript."

Don’t explain. [For example] "Thank you for this invitation. Unfortunately, I’m unavailable to participate. I appreciate your thinking of me."

Do explain. When you have an unassailable reason that will stop the conversation in its tracks, you may choose to volunteer it. If you want a person never to contact you again, you may say so. And again, don’t apologize or bargain.

[For example] "I have no expertise in your journal’s subject area or discipline. I will never be an appropriate person to review a manuscript for your journal. Please do not contact me again. Thank you."

Set your own policies. Create guidelines to help you decide when to say no. These policies can be publicly stated ("I never write a recommendation with less than two weeks’ notice") or privately avowed.

For example, every year, I commit to 12 external-review projects (evaluating article manuscripts, book manuscripts, grant applications, or tenure-and-promotion dossiers). That number doesn’t include reading work by my students, mentees, or friends. After I’ve said yes to 12, I say no to all further requests.

Just hit "delete." Some requests are unreasonable or inappropriate, and they issue from people who have no power over you. [I don’t agree with this one. LJS]

You can read more here.


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