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The Power of YES & NO

Why are these words so misused and how we can fix that?

Too often we say YES when we mean NO and sometimes we say NO when we want to say YES. These reversals can make all the difference in our world.


Often we say YES to requests for our time:

  • Will you come to a party?

  • Will you join this meeting?

  • Can I join you for lunch?

  • I know I didn't book any time on your calendar, but can I have a few minutes?

  • Can you stay at this party longer?

  • Will you go to this networking social - it'd be a great chance for you to meet people?

The Barrage of questions

It's not just the types of questions, it's the barrage of questions we all field during the day. It's exhausting! For the most part, the enquirers have good intentions. They assume you would want to do what they want to do. They assume their observation of your apparent shortcomings is something you want to address and that they are the coach or savior you have been waiting for.

And what's most unfortunate is that often we do say YES. We join social outings, we set our plans and priorities aside, we hide our own strengths rather than stand up for ourselves and our own style. This implies we are weak but we can be strong. This implies we are followers but we can be leaders.

Sometimes we say YES for fear of missing out (FOMO). People may wonder why we aren't there. They may be talking about the event the next day and we missed it. But while some say "life is short" it is also (hopefully) true that "life is long," with plenty of amazing opportunities. Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do." It's a bit warming to recognize this and empowering to make our own choices in life.

Time to educate others

It is time to say NO to these people. We don't have to be rude. On the contrary, we can help ourselves and the introverted community's cause by dedicating a few minutes to explain that everyone is different. We prefer to network in smaller groups, we socialize in tight circles, we operate best with forewarning and preparation, and we need some respite and control of our time to reenergize during the day so we can give our best. We respect their often spontaneous and gregarious approach and ask that they respect our approach as well.

In fact, if we match their quick-wit, social skills, and playful banter with our thoughtfulness, preparation, curiosity, and balanced approach, together we can be a powerful duo or team. But a team doesn't push or pity. A team listens, respects, and empowers each other.


We often say NO when we might wish to say YES. We instinctively decline social outings or leadership roles out of fear. "I can't be like the other party-goers or leaders, so I just won't go."

But just as we need to muster the fortitude and courage to decline some offers, we should also consider opportunities to stretch out of our comfort zone at other times. Consider these three questions to determine if we truly want to say YES:

  • Do I want to go? Conduct your own deliberation. What could be good or bad about the experience? What could I learn? Would I have regrets tomorrow, next week, or even 50 years from now if I decide not to take a chance on something?

  • Can we do it on our terms? This means using our own strengths and style. Prepare and practice for that presentation. Meet with others in small, personal groups in familiar places, for shorter durations. Schedule a meeting with others with ample time to review the agenda and the pre-read so you can prepare to participate.

  • Do I want to stretch my comfort zone? Rather than jump into a massive cocktail party of strangers, speak in front of hundreds, or lead a team of dozens, take incremental steps to grow our skills and confidence. Small steps seem doable, and they can add up to big changes. Then, give yourself the springboard to extend further and also the permission to be satisfied at trying, without feeling the obligation to push further when it could become destructive.

Life has many crossroads or decision points, large and small. Before we instinctively say YES or NO, pause and consider what do I really want to do (or not do). Under what conditions would I want to do it? Will I regret either passing on an opportunity or perhaps acquiescing and going along with the crowd and feeling smaller for it?

Live life through courage and strength...and make your own YES/NO decisions!



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