How to let people down easy β€” so they can rise up

I get notes like these all the time . . . after rejecting artists for exhibition at the gallery:

Thank you very much for the lovely email reply. I will recontact you in a couple of years πŸ™‚ 

All the best, 


Please do not attempt to decode the name above, it is scrambled with a high-tech algorithm (which has a code name all its own, Pig Latin. It’s that powerful an algorithm.)

Some artists have written back to thank me for taking the time to be thoughtful, as they mostly don’t hear back at all from galleries they submit to. Or they get a one-line rejection.
Others have thanked me profusely for caring enough to be specific in my response.
I’ve had artists write back after a rejection from our gallery to say they were in fact inspired to go further. 
It takes only the merest amount of time to let someone down easy β€” be it for a job, a promotion, any kind of request β€” possibly imparting an insight into a strength of theirs that might spur them on to greater things.
(Here’s an example of when I obviously failed to do so graciously enough.)
Most of you will only have to turn down someone on a rare occasion. To take that extra time to connect on a human level then is no big deal. It barely dents your colossal amount of time on this earth.
For those of you who must say No thanks to many, I have a suggestion so you’re not overwhelmed.
In an average year we might receive two to three hundred submissions from artists. Here’s how I handle letting people down easy. I keep a few templates of replies handy. 
These are replies I’ve written in earnest previously. I save the best ones and then use those as springboards to my response.
You can modify a template to fit the person you’re letting down easy, like I do. Or, if swamped and depleted energy-wise, you can copy the template whole cloth and let ‘er rip. It’s still better than no reply at all β€” or a hasty brush off.
Years back an artist friend told me that I’d become famous in local circles for my ability to say no to an artist while making them feel as though I’d said yes. 
He playfully mocked me: “After talking with them you walk an artist outside to say goodbye, and it’s only when you go back in and they’re left standing there that they realize they’ve been rejected.”
It takes so little to lift someone up, even when you have to say no.

For you β€”

Evan Griffith

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