Recently one of our fellow Heretics asked me: “How do you turn down offers without burning the bridge?”
It’s an excellent question. One which I would expand to many different situations; not just turning down an offer for funding or a partnership proposal.
I am by no means an expert in this area (I guess I have my fair share of skeletons in the closet on this one) and yet: I don’t think it’s hard. Speaking from the receiving end of it (i.e. someone turned down my offer) I honor and respect honesty over anything. Just tell me straight why you don’t want to or can’t accept my offer, explain your reasons, offer to stay in touch and be generally a nice person to deal with and all will be fine. Then make sure you actually do what you say and stay in touch (there is nothing which burns bridges faster for me than people who don’t follow up).
It really isn’t that hard. Just follow rule number one of human interaction (“Don’t be an asshole.”) and pepper in some of rule number two (“Be a genuinely nice person.”) and you’re all good.
Happy Bridge-Building Everyone!