Goodbye ‘Yes’ Man!

A man wearing a blue shirt sitting at a table with one hand on the table and the other hand pointing upwards as though saying no

Do we balance a ‘Yes’ with a ‘No’?

Do you remember the movie ‘Yes Man’ where Carl, played by Jim Carrey, decides to say “Yes!” to everything and finds himself outside his comfort zone on more than one occasion? Although it’s a funny watch, the outcome (spoiler!) is that his life becomes pretty chaotic as a result of saying “Yes!” to too many things.

How many of us find ourselves in a similar (albeit less adrenalin-filled) personal situation? Piling on the activity because we falsely believe there are more hours in the day. Not wanting to let others down due to commitments made. Clambering into bed and wondering how we made it through the day, the week, the month, the year.

At ICC, we agree that it’s easier to say ‘Yes’ than ‘No’ (occasionally with some really positive consequences). We also agree that ‘Yes’ suggests we have an energy, an appetite to be supportive, or to be a risk-taker or collaborator. It suggests that we’re open-minded and flexible. But it could also imply that we choose not to think or stand up for ourselves, following the crowd, remaining too eager to help while dropping the ball elsewhere. We might even start to resent our busy life, or those that seem to keep on asking for our time.

Perhaps we could avoid the worst of Carl’s chaotic life by learning to say ‘No’ a little more often. And here’s a question, is it a case of learning to say ‘No’, or is it simply finding the courage to do so?

‘No’ is not necessarily linked with lack of care, support, or negativity. Saying ‘No’ is a hidden superpower. It’s rarely celebrated but it demonstrates a moment of clear choice, affirming a commitment to ourselves or a value that we uphold. That simple little word ‘No’ showcases self-discipline and respect, exposing an internal strength that we may not even be aware of. We can only spend time, there’s no savings account. And it’s a pretty generous person that continues to allow others to spend it for them.

Try our three-step technique:

 – See their view (fully understand and empathise with the other person’s request). Do this first! Earn a hearing.

– State your position (be open, honest and direct). Don’t hide behind excuses, or other people.

– Make suggestions, offer options, look for alternatives (this moves the dialogue away from a difference of opinion, and onto collectively assessing other solutions). No damage done, it’s outcome focused. There’s no standoff, but there is a healthy respect for ourselves, that matches the generosity we so regularly show to others by saying ‘Yes’.

So, the good news is that we don’t have to say ‘No’….BUT, we don’t need to say ‘Yes’ either! Sorry Carl, we’re saying ‘No’ to following your example so that we can beat our own path, making choices that feel right for us and always balancing the ‘Yes’ with the ‘No’.

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