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The High Cost Of Saying 'no'

Before I became a full-time freelancer, I worked in the communications department at a large non-profit.

The organization hosted several events every year, from small local workshops to huge statewide conferences, and we always needed to fill some holes in the event schedule.

This was never easy. Many times it was on my department to come up with extra presentations. That meant that my three bosses always had to present, which involved a lot of work and travel.

The presenters didn't have to be managers, though. Anyone could've done it. But for the most part, no one ever volunteered. We were writers, editors and designers, and we all seemed to prefer to hide out in our cubicles. When a boss asked for volunteers, we'd avoid making eye contact until the uncomfortable moment of silence had passed.

No one wants to put themselves out there

We didn't have to step up and put ourselves in an uncomfortable position, so we didn't. As long as we kept a low profile, we were safe until the next request for speakers…

Or were we?

I was avoiding a nerve-racking situation and getting to stay inside my warm and fuzzy comfort zone, but that actually came at a cost.

First, my bosses couldn't have seen me as much of a leader. I was just one of the nervous herd. That might not seem like a huge deal, until you want to move up the ladder or need a glowing recommendation letter, that is.

And second, I was  missing out on a big opportunity to beef up my resume and to learn and practice a new skill. And when we avoid making presentations or decide to skip a networking event, who knows how much we're losing in terms of valuable relationships and future income? Whether you avoid these activities altogether or you seldom do them (and therefore probably do them poorly), there's no telling how much that costs you over a lifetime.

That's not an earth-shattering revelation. We all know that relationships and exposure are important. So if we know how important a cold call or networking event can be, why do we do everything we can to avoid them?

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