Using Email Templates to Say “No” with Grace

Earlier this week, a good friend of mine who also happens to be an author and blogger asked if I had an email template for saying “no.” Apparently, as a result of her rising visibility, she is getting numerous requests from people who want to meet with her or “pick her brain” about this or that.

Screenshot of My Email Templates

I get lots of requests like this, too. In fact, I have identified eleven different kinds of requests. I hate saying “no” to people. In fact, I don’t know anyone who enjoys it. So to make the process less painful, I have developed a series of email templates that I can use for these requests.

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I use Apple Mail. I have entered each of these templates as an “email signature.” (Who says a signature has to be just a signature? It can be any kind of boilerplate text.) You can do the same thing in Microsoft Entourage or Outlook. You could also do this with a macro program like Typinator, Quickeys, Keyboard Maestro, or iKey. The tool is inconsequential.

Here is my list of requests by category with my boilerplate text:

  1. People looking for a job. I don’t take these appointments, unless I am attempting to fill a spot that will report to me and the person sounds genuinely interesting. Otherwise I send them this:
    Dear [Name]:

    As CEO, I do not get directly involved in the hiring process except in very rare instances such as filling a key opening on our Executive Leadership Team or on my own staff.

    Nevertheless, I can tell you how to get started. First, visit this page on our Web site:

    https://business.thomasnelson.com/employment/

    This page contains a list of all job openings currently available at Thomas Nelson. Click on the job that interests you and then read the full job description. If you are still interested in the job, click on the link that says, “Apply for Position.” This will take you to an online Job Application.

    Once you have submitted the form, someone in our Human Resources Department will review your application and take the appropriate action. If you can’t find a position that interests you, you might want to check back in a week or so, as these job postings are updated regularly.

    May God bless you on your job search, whether He leads you here or elsewhere. Again, thank you for honoring us with your interest in joining our company.

    Kind regards,

    Michael

  2. Unpublished authors wanting me to read their proposal. I never agree to this, unless the circumstances are very unusual. Exceptions would include referrals from people I really respect. Otherwise, I say this:
    Dear [Name]:

    Thanks for your interest in Thomas Nelson. Unfortunately, we don’t consider unsolicited queries, proposals, or manuscripts. I personally get hundreds a year; our staff get thousands. We simply don’t have the resources to review these.

    However, I can give you some specific guidance on how to get published. In “Advice for First Time Authors,” I offer step-by-step instructions for what to do next. You can find it here:

    http://michaelhyatt.com/advice-to-first.html

    We also have launched a new self-publishing imprint called WestBow Press. While this isn’t for everyone, it might be appropriate for you, depending on your circumstances. You can read about it here:

    http://michaelhyatt.com/should-you-consider-self-publishing.htm

    I hope you will find this helpful.

    Kind regards,

    Michael

  3. Blog readers wanting to meet me over coffee. With rare exception, I just don’t have time to do this. As a result, I say this:
    Dear [Name]:

    Thanks for your kind words about my blog.

    Thanks also for your interest in meeting with me. Unfortunately, that will not be possible for the foreseeable future. In order to honor my existing commitments, I must decline many worthy invitations like yours.

    However, this is one of the main reasons I blog. It allows me to connect in some way with people I would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet.

    Kind regards,

    Michael

  4. Business people wanting to “pick my brain.” These are people who essentially want free consulting. You can’t blame them. Free is my favorite price, too. However, except in rare cases (like close friends or certain non-profits), I just don’t have the time. As a result, I offer them three options:
    Dear [Name]:

    Thanks for your interest in meeting with me about [topic]. I get this request a lot. As a result, I have three options available. The first one is free:

    1. My Blog. I have numerous articles on [topic] available on my site. You can find them all by using the Search feature in the right-hand sidebar of my blog.
    2. Consulting. I do a limited amount of consulting on this [topic]. My minimum is a one-hour consultation (not including travel time). Though I am expensive, I do provide a discount on half-day and full-day rates. I would be happy to explain how that works if you are interested.
    3. Speaking. I also speak on this topic. I have a one-hour speech called “[Title of Speech]” I also have done half-day and full-day seminars. If you are interested in this option, you might want to start by checking out my Speaking page.

    Thanks again for your interest. Let me know if I can provide anything further.

    Kind regards,

    Michael

    Note: I don’t provide my consulting rates in this first email. I want to make sure they are interested first.

  5. Event planners wanting to discuss booking me to speak. Fortunately, I have a booking agent who handles all my speaking requests, so I delegate all of these inquiries to him:
    Dear [Name]:

    Thanks so much for your interest in having me speak at your event.

    Brian Scheer handles all my speaking requests. I am copying him on my reply. He will be in touch with you shortly.

    Thanks again,

    Michael

  6. Bloggers wanting me to write a guest post. I never do this. It is all I can do to keep up with my own blog. I send this response:
    Dear [Name]:

    Thanks so much for thinking of me as a potential guest blogger. I am honored.

    Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time. It is all I can do to keep up with my own blog! As a result, I’m afraid I will have to decline your kind invitation.

    Again, thanks for thinking of me.

    Kind regards,

    Michael

  7. Bloggers wanting my input on their blog. This is a fairly common request. To do it right would take considerable time. As a result, I usually say:
    Dear [Name]:

    Thanks for your kind words about my blog.

    Thanks also for your interest in having me take a look at your blog and offering my thoughts about it. Unfortunately, that will not be possible for the foreseeable future. In order to honor my existing commitments, I must decline many worthy invitations like yours.

    However, this is one of the main reasons I blog. It allows me to connect in some way with people I would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet.

    Kind regards,

    Michael

  8. Media outlets requesting an interview. Fortunately, I have a communications director who handles my media requests. This could just as easily be my assistant.
    Dear [Name]:

    Thanks for your email. I appreciate your interest in interviewing me.

    I am copying Lindsey Nobles, my Director of Corporate Communications, in this reply. She handles all media requests for me and will be back in touch with you shortly.

    Kind regards,

    Michael

  9. Bloggers submitting a guest post for my consideration. I try to publish a couple of guest posts a month. However, I get twenty or so submissions each month. Obviously, I have to say “no” to most of these. I say:
    Dear [Name]:

    Thanks for your interest in being a guest blogger on my site. I am grateful that you took the time to write this post and submit it. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will be able to use it.

    I have received scores of submissions—more than I expected. As a result, I am having to turn down many well-written posts, including yours. Sometimes this is because the topics overlap or the posts are too general for my audience. Regardless, because of my time constraints, I can’t really provide more detailed feedback.

    I wish you the best in your writing endeavors. If you have another post, I would be happy to consider it.

    Kind regards,

    Michael

  10. Authors and publishers requesting that I review a book. While I do occasionally review books that are not published by Thomas Nelson, I have never reviewed a book that someone pitched me. It is usually a book I discovered on my own and am genuinely excited about. Therefore, I say:
    Dear [Name]:

    Thank you for your kind words regarding my blog. Thanks also for your interest in having me consider your book for possible review.

    As you might imagine, I get quite a few requests like this. In addition, my own company, Thomas Nelson, publishes about 350 new books per year.

    Unfortunately, I can only read 6–8 new books a month. I give first priority to the books I publish and then to the books that relate to one of my personal interests.

    Your book certainly sounds interesting, but I am afraid I will have to pass at this time.

    Thanks again,

    Michael

  11. Vendors wanting an appointment to pitch their product. I get all kinds of emails from vendors fishing for leads. Most of the time, they haven’t taken the time to learn anything about my business or my specific needs; they are just trolling. My spam filter catches most of these. I delete the rest without responding. The act of sending me an email doesn’t obligate me to respond. The only exception I make is if someone I know referred the person or I have actually met them.

Feel free to borrow my templates or adapt them to your circumstances. I have found that it is usually easier to start with something and modify it rather than create it from scratch.

Question: What am I missing? How do you handle some of these same requests? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Melody DuBois

    What wonderful examples of gracious replies! This is one of the arts I've come to appreciate living in Asia. (My husband and I marvel, for example, at many Asian flight attendants… frequently quipping that they somehow have the ability to say "no" and make you feel good about it.)

    Particularly in the Philippines, the way to "no" is usually through a "yes." So I especially like your philosophy of thinking "what CAN I do/offer that might be a help to this person?"

  • http://www.facebook.com/tiffanibelle Tiffani Riggers

    I know you posted this a few days ago, but a friend of mine tweeted it today, so I am just seeing it. As a graduate student, I have fewer formal responsibilities than I did in the work world, but a few other templates occured to me as I was reading your post. The first "letter of recommendation" – because I have worked with a number of students in the past as a college administrator and now as a teaching assistant, students often ask for a letter of recommendation for various endeavors. I think I'll create a "no" and a "yes, but here is what you need to send me" templates. On the same vein, a "serve as a professional reference" template response might be nice to have.

    The suggestions you offered are ones that I plan to put back into use once I'm done with this degree and back in a profession again! In the meantime, thanks for your post!
    My recent post Monday Fun! (for movie lovers!)

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  • Anne

    Question for you — What if it's an acquaintance? What if one contacts you and wants to connect with you, but doesn't mention why? Is there a polite way to ask what they want? I don't want to be rude to someone and say, "What do you want?," especially if they just liked you and want to hang out. However, if they really do have an agenda, it'd be easier to just reply with a template, rather than waste a lot of time.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I actually use a variation of what I have outlined above. I state my regret that we cannot get together. Then I tell them it just won’t be possible.

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  • http://twitter.com/StacyBrice @StacyBrice

    I appreciate your gracious templates, and I'm absolutely curious to hear why you don't delegate this to a trusted and valued assistant, so that you can focus on other things?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/tellmisty Misty Williams

    Oh. my. goodness.

    Mike, I would have never thought to use the email sig in the way you have described … holy cow, I am going to have my team execute this right away! We work with authors / speakers / coaches to manage their marketing and promo infrastructure and I have probably 80% of our activities systemized so that we are efficient and keep costs down for our clients. This is MUSIC TO MY EARS!!!
    My recent post How do I find good customers?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Awesome. Templates are a HUGE time-saver!

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  • http://aliciaforest.com Alicia Forest

    Thanks so much for this – though I'm in a different industry, the requests on my time for review/coaching/consulting for 'free' can be overwhelming and I appreciate some of the ways you've devised to gracefully decline.

    Cheers,
    ~ Alicia

  • http://twitoaster.com/country-us/michaelhyatt/ MichaelHyatt

    If you find it difficult to say “no,” try these 10 sample email templates. Re-post: http://michaelhyatt.com/using-email-temp

    • http://twitoaster.com/country-us/jeremymeyers/ jeremymeyers

      RT @MichaelHyatt: If you find it difficult to say “no,” try these 10 sample email templates. Re-post: http://michaelhyatt.com/using-email-temp

  • http://www.lovin4nuttin.net lovin4nuttin

    wow, it really took a lot of work to write all this and it was very informative, thank you for sharing

  • http://www.byemail.com.au/ Email Templates

    Nowadays, it is not surprising anymore for anyone who uses email to receive email messages from random businesses and individuals offering certain products and services Email Templates

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  • http://www.thursdaybram.com Thursday Bram

    I do something similar in Gmail — if you’re using Gmail, you can use the canned response feature, rather than signatures, which is a nice option in my mind. I’ve seen some examples of people using a combination of canned responses and filters to automatically respond to certain categories of email.

    So far, I haven’t found that appropriate for the level of connection I want to have with the people I work with (and I’d rather not run the risk of sending an automatic email to the wrong person). But having templates ready to go has made a world of difference in my career.

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  • http://www.kristievosper.com Kristie Vosper

    Oh Michael, this post is JUST what I needed to read. Thank you. I’m working on developing better boundaries around my time…I just have to.  I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. That just feels so terrible to do…but I’ve pandered to everyone else’s needs for long enough…so freedom from this is feeling good. You just gave me so many wonderful words I’ll use as a guide and encouragement. Thank you!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great, Kristie. It really does take the anxiety out of saying, “no.” All the best.

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  • Kristi Holl

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Lorene Collier Purcy

    Thank you for that wonderful information…

  • Rob Holliday

    Michael,
    Thanks for providing such practical advice. Being a pleaser by nature as well, I find it hard to manage saying no. What I really like about your formats here is that it provides a well thought out and kind way of replying to all your inquiries, in spite of the limits on your time. So many inquiries go unanswered, and yours provide the feedback that answers the nervous lull after making such a request. I admire the work you’ve done in developing yourself into the  great communicator that you are. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Joe

    Very practical way to handle your email.  Thanks for the tip.  I bet TextExpander would make the process even more painless since it supports input boxes you could use to insert names, etc..

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I will check that out. I didn’t realize it had input boxes.

  • http://snappycasual.tumblr.com kelsey williams

    This is so helpful! Thank you so much.

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  • http://www.keeperofthehome.org/ Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home

    Thank you so much for these practical examples. My husband has been telling me to do this for quite some time, as I have a well-trafficked homemaking blog, and continually get requests similar to the ones you’ve mentioned above. To respond to all of them is simply impossible, as I maintain my own blog and care for my home and young family. I know, I know, I know that I can’t do it all.

    But, I struggle with the guilt… even though I know I shouldn’t. I so appreciate this post, as it gives me just another little push (and maybe a nod of approval) towards graciously saying “no” to all of these various requests. Without guilt. :) 

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  • http://twitter.com/TechSavvyLender Chris Sanderson

    You seriously amaze me, Michael.  Just made a few templates of my own thanks to you!  Jim Rohn taught that the best way to greatness is service to many.  You certainly qualify for greatness.  THANK YOU!  

  • Robin Taney

    These are great! Although I don’t have scores of people pitching me and trying to pick my brain at the same time, these will come in very handy with the requests that I do need to turn down.

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  • http://www.fivefoldfatherhood.com/ Ricardo Butler

    AAAAAAAHHH This is a GOLD MINE! I already have my own, but now that people are requesting more of my time this greatly helps! I love you Mike for this one!

  • Shane Sams

    J-J-J-J-Jackpot! Thanks Michael, just used these for the first time this morning. Not only did it make the “no” easier to type out, but I actually felt it was a positive exchange (lifting up the other person instead of shooting them down). Great stuff!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Excellent, Shane. So glad this was helpful.