We’re surrounded by yes-men from our very first day on the job all the way up until the point where we become self-actualized (if you’re so lucky), where your direct reports are doing your bidding for you. Saying yes helps us get ahead in the work place, it shows respect to our peers, and proves that we possess a “can-do” attitude… assuming you can deliver, but at what cost do we pay? Does it always raise the bar? Should we instead be more selective when saying the word yes, so that when we do, we can make it count? Here are four reasons, from a person who says yes far too often (ask my fiancé), why you should keep the word “no” in your 8-5 vocabulary.
1.We’re busy people
It’s generally considered good career advice to stay (look) busy and keep a full plate, even if your one of the dozen or so people who figured out how to completely automate their jobs. For the rest of us, who have to email and not sound like a robot…, it’s a constant balancing act of taking on additional responsibility, while managing our current commitments. At first its a new committee, where they’re looking for f̶r̶e̶s̶h̶ ̶b̶l̶o̶o̶d̶ new members, then it’s a company event or two, next thing you know it’s a couple of new side projects, a few hierarchical dotted lines… you get the gist. Because of this, we often see these opportunities of personal development as potentially detrimental drains on our productive minutes. If we were to focus on “the ask” and how well it aligns with our individual values and corporate goals, that would be a better mechanism of deciding yay-or-nay vs. a typical reluctant yes.
2. It’s a trust-worthy signal
Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to participate in over 100+ sales call, which is sadly not as common as it should be in development roles. The risk that you run when you aren’t in constant contact with customers is an underlying need to immediately please their needs, figuring out the rest of the details as you go. This gets dicey… fast, in my opinion, because not all people want to know what your willing to put on your strategic development plan over the next few years, they want to know what you can deliver on today or maybe tomorrow. By saying no, I’ve encountered end customers tell me that we’ve been the first supplier to provide true transparency. No doesn’t mean that you are unwilling to look into a subject further, it just means that you don’t have an absolute answer today. There’s a difference and for some customers, it’s key.
3. You can be more effective when you do say “yes”
How many of you have heard of Tim Ferriss’ book the Four Hour Work Week? It’s a pretty compelling idea, right? Spend the majority of your time focusing on what you know will bring you merit versus on cyclical tasks that are a drain on time and other resources. While four hours may be an extremists version of saying no, the underlying principles are the same. As Tim points out, “what if you could 10x your per-hour output” how far would you go to make that your reality?
4. You have more power than you think
All too often, we find ourselves in positions where we feel powerless and where we must abide to what is asked of us. We may be asked, but its worded in such a way, where there aren’t multiple choice answers, just a box–and its your turn to check it. This, while seemingly common, is in most instances not a capture of the full picture. While we may not have legitimate authority or visible power that we can harness, we always have the opportunity to dissent and question the process. How do we dissent? We can offer alternative solutions, we can repeatedly voice our concerns, all while showing direct factual appeal to go against the binary thinking we’ve encountered. That’s not to say that you should wield the power of no lightly, as along with it, you may need be be persuasive by utilizing logical reasoning or a bit of bargaining. But what it is to say, is that you have options and the empowerment to break the status quo… because we’re never truly powerless.
Its true… there’s some inherent value in providing a resounding yes to your customers, but there’s also associated risk. The chance that you’ll underwhelm them if your unprepared, that you aren’t sure of what your committing to, or that your overburdened and unwilling to let them in on that small little detail. It’s important to be eager, wanting to will yourself to please others, but you have to know that it’s at a cost at times. Do you know others who never say no? Have you agreed to something before and immediately regretted it? Tag a friend who could use a refresher on how to say no. Comment below a story of when you wished you had said no, or where you were glad you did.