The Power of Saying Yes, and Why I’m a Slow Learner

I have a friend (who I love dearly) who is very contrary. I’ll call her Mary. We have been friends since we were in our teens, and I love and respect my friend. But she drives me crazy because she is always contrary. She always says ‘NO’. She doesn’t realise that she is doing this; she thinks she is saying yes, but being with her can be draining.

Arguing a point just to argue?

I understand this, because I am exactly the same. I often argue a point simply to argue it. I love arguing. There is a difference between arguing and fighting. In ancient Greece, philosophical ideas were argued and new ideas were formulated. This may not have happened if everyone simply agreed with each other.

The Sophists of Ancient Greece

Think of the Sophists, “In the second half of the 5th century BC, particularly at Athens, “sophist” came to denote a class of mostly itinerant intellectuals who taught courses in various subjects, speculated about the nature of language and culture and employed rhetoric to achieve their purposes, generally to persuade or convince others.”

If I said to my friend Mary, “The sky is blue,” she would reply, “No it’s not. Sometimes it’s pink or even orange.” If I tell Mary that I enjoy my new job, she says, “But are they paying you enough?” If I tell Mary that I have tried a new form of meditation, she tells me, “I’ve heard that could be a dangerous or ineffective technique.” She contradicts everything I say, all the time.

But I love her. And I know her well (gosh, it’s nearly 20 years) and I can handle her contrariness because I have come to expect it. We only get to see each other infrequently and when she contradicts me, I shrug it off.

I have realised that I constantly contradict people

But when my partner does it, it drives me crazy! And I do it to him too! I have been writing about how he and I have been going through lots of problems. It’s like we can’t agree on anything anymore. I feel that he is too quick to discount anything I say, and I’m sure he feels the same way.

I have a great friend who always says ‘YES’. He is a lot older than me and very wise. By doing this, he makes people feel important and most importantly HEARD. I realise that when someone contradicts me unnecessarily, it can make me feel UNHEARD.

Say YES and not NO but

yes cats

It’s the old improvisation trick. Don’t say “No, but.” Say “Yes, and.” Tina Fey knows this, and so does every great improviser.

Penelope Trunk talks about being enchanting on her wonderful blog, she mentions that the only thing that is going to get you the job over the other four interview candidates is the fact that the interviewer finds you the most enchanting. People need to want to be able to hang out with you.

The Sophists knew this: “Sophists did, however, have one important thing in common: whatever else they did or did not claim to know, they characteristically had a great understanding of what words would entertain or impress or persuade an audience.”

Penelope rightly talks about making people feel enchanting when you are talking to them. You need to make the person you are talking to feel interesting, HEARD, listened to, appreciated. It’s about them, not about you. Too often I realise I make a conversation all about ME. I’m too keen to tell people what I know. What I’VE done. What I think. This can put people out and it certainly doesn’t make them feel heard and appreciated.

I need to learn how to listen and say YES when I am talking to someone

Penelope talks about this: “The truth is that people don’t care if you are enchanting. They want to feel like they themselves are enchanting. I first learned this reading Roger Ailes’s book You Are The Message. He explains how you are interesting if you make people around you interesting. You are enchanting to people if you help them to be better than they are.”

Blogger Carelton from Boston says: “In other words, Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.” Check out his blog PCA2.

That might just have to be my mantra for this week.

  1. March 25, 2013

    This is a wonderful post! It makes a lot of sense. You mentioned several things I need to work on. I love how you talked about a person being “enchanting” and that seperating them from other interview candidates. I will have to keep that in mind for future use!! I’m learning to say “no” more right now because I have an issue with being assertive. I have always felt guilty when someone asked me to do something so I would say “sure” or “yes” when I was completely drained. Learning to say no is extremely empowering for me. I could also benefit though from just listening instead of at times contradicting my friends. I feel like the majority of people just want to be heard at the end of the day, not judged one way or the other. Thanks for posting!

    1. March 25, 2013

      Thanks so much. I am a ‘yes man’ too and it does me no favours. I am so eager to please that I end up not getting what I want and becoming resentful and then exploding. It’s hard to say no. It’s hard to disapoint people, but every now and then we have to do it. Thanks so mcuh for your comment!

  2. March 25, 2013

    Few Years ago, one of my mentor told me to practice PCS model. Praise, Concern and Solution – when there is need to say no.
    Instead of saying no straight away or expressing concerns – start with praise first – that will get attention and engagement. After that express the concern if any and then suggest solution that might be helpful.
    This might help in some situations 🙂

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