Here’s something for you to try: say “yes” for a day–to every question where you could answer “yes” or “no,” say “yes.” Now that can be “yes, and” or even “yes, if” but the word “no” (in any form), should be avoided.
When you say “yes” you encourage conversation and connection; whereas saying “no” shuts things down.
For example, let’s say a client calls who wants a project done by you and wants it tomorrow, which is impossible for you to do as your schedule is booked. Rather than say “No, sorry” say “Yes, I’d love to, if we can move it to next Monday.” Or maybe you could say “Yes, if I can get another client to change their project deadline, I’d love to do it.”
Or, what about the client who calls up with a great project but wants to own the copyright for your work? “Yes, sure, we can do that if your budget can afford it,” or “Yes, I can do your project if we can change that parameter,” or “Yes, this is a compelling project I know I’d do a great job on, if we can work around the copyright transfer; I bet some sort of exclusive, unlimited license would cover your needs–can we discuss it?”
See how all of these answers encourages the dialogue to continue? You’re being positive, helpful, you’re acknowledging the client’s needs and seeking solutions.
Of course, you may eventually reach a point where you can’t make the situation work and will have no other choice but to say “no,” but by saying “Yes” from the start you are telling your client that you want to make it happen–you want to fulfill their needs–so when you finally have to say “no” they will not only understand that you have no choice, they’ll appreciate the efforts you made in trying.