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I recently had someone send me a document that they needed to have completed right now for an important deadline they had. Mind you, they could have sent the document they needed months earlier, but they waited until the last minute. Normally, I wouldn’t sweat it — I’d fill it out pretty quickly and get it back to them. However, on this occasion I was in Panama on business. I was headed home to Austin for less than 24 hours, then I was off to Charlotte for business meetings at BNI Global, and then I was off to Necker Island for some downtime. They could not have caught me at a worse time — and they were completely aware that I was in the midst of my travels. Nevertheless, they emailed me, emailed my assistant, emailed my wife and emailed all of us multiple times over two days.
In between my meetings, I dropped this person a message and said, “I’m sorry you have a crisis, but your crisis is not my emergency. You had months to send this to me, and you sent it at the last moment (when I’m swamped) and you want it right now. No, I am not able to do it right now. I will do it as soon as I can.” This is an illustration of why, in my book, Who’s in Your Room, I write that sometimes, “no” is a one-word sentence.
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I understand the above person’s frustration. She made a mistake in her planning. However, she then dropped that problem in my lap and wanted an immediate fix, despite my schedule. I’ve been there before and appreciate the tension of not meeting an important deadline. However, I did not handle it like she did with multiple demands for completion. Instead, I recommend you consider these suggestions if you find yourself in a situation where you are dropping your problem on someone else.
1. Start with an apology
Something alone the lines of, “I’m really, really sorry, but something has slipped through the cracks, and I am getting this to you late. I know you should have had it a long time ago but you didn’t, and that’s on me. I’ve attached it to this message. Is there any way you can get it to me by [X] date or time? I know this may be an inconvenience, but I would appreciate if you could make that happen.”
2. Copy any assistants and associates on the message
Do this once, not multiple times.
3. Do not harass family (especially if you do not know them)
In my mind, this is a more of a “never-ever” tip. My spouse does not particularly appreciate being pulled into something she had nothing to do with and refrains from trying to parent me.
4. When you get what you requested, make sure to thank them
Throw yourself on the sword again, and tell them you appreciate them helping you out by getting it to you as quickly as you could.
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And keep this final thought in mind: Someone’s crisis is not your emergency. And while you’ve got that inside your head, feel free to send this blog to anyone who tries to make their crisis yours. Maybe they’ll finally get the message.