Saying “Yes” is Best
Healthy boundaries are one of the foundations of healthy couples, families and organizations. Please read my posts on how to establish healthy boundaries for information on where to start.
But if you feel you have a pretty good grip on establishing boundaries, then the next step is to allow as much growth and freedom within the bounds which have been set. How to do this? Start saying “Yes” as much as possible.
Too often, I think we tend to say “No” as a reflex.
“Mom, can I have a cookie?”
“Darling, let’s try something new . . . “
“No, I’m tired.”
“Boss, can I come in late tomorrow if I work through lunch?”
Maybe we don’t want to be inconvenienced by the implications of saying “Yes.” Perhaps we see “No” as safe and “Yes” as risky. Possibly, we grew up in a family culture where “No” was the norm. For whatever reason, many of us are known for saying “No.”
We might see the risks and inconveniences of saying “Yes,” but let’s look at the downside of being a “no-monger”.
1. People stop asking. Your chance to influence them vanishes when they avoid you. Without your influence, the other person could end up making an unhealthy choice.
2. People may start sneaking. Kids, spouses and employees will start sneaking instead of asking. They may begin being dishonest with you because they fear consequences. Then, when you find out they have been sneaking, you often react with righteous indignation, anger, shaming, etc. Then they avoid you even more!
3. The relationship suffers. When the request is shut down with a “No”, the dialogue ceases. The other person feels stonewalled and you miss an opportunity to bond. You don’t get to know the person and his or her desires and hopes. Even if you eventually have to deny the request, the conversation allows you to understand the person deeply. The other person will respect that process and you.
4. Self-confidence erodes. What message do we send to others about their capabilities when we habitually react with “No”? “You’ll hurt yourself.” ”You’ll mess it up.” “You will fail.” The recipient gets the message that they are incapable loud and clear. They will lack self-confidence.
5. Self-worth erodes. If someone has a desire and we often deny the fulfilling of that need, what message does that send about their needs/wants? That’s right. The take-away is, “Your needs don’t count. Your wants aren’t important.” It isn’t a huge leap for the person to believe that they don’t count or are unimportant. They will feel worthless.
6. Growth is stifled. With fewer new experiences, our growth is curtailed. We begin living inside a smaller and smaller box. Growing and learning is often risky and messy. But stagnation is the greatest risk of all.
These are pretty significant drawbacks.
Saying “Yes” will create the opposite results: More influence, more honesty, more understanding, more self-confidence, more self-worth, and more growth.
How do we get to “Yes” more often? Let’s use the example of a daughter who wants her dad to buy her a bike.
1. See it from their perspective. Do your best to see the issue from their point of view. Ask for more information about why they would like you to say “Yes.” Try to imagine how the person is feeling as they make that request.
Dad might say to the daughter, “Tell me more about wanting a bike. . . what would that mean to you? What will you do with it? What kind are you thinking of?”
2. Shift to an opportunity paradigm. Instead of using a “risk-based” assessment, use an “opportunity-based” assessment. What are the opportunities offered by the request? Growth? Learning? Build relationship? For instance, if someone asks for you make a purchase, instead of saying “No,” you could take the opportunity to share some details about your budget. Or you could brainstorm activities to generate the funding for themselves. Or you could map out a time-line in which the purchase may be possible. The opportunity for learning, growth, and building relationship can be leveraged.
Dad might say to his girl, “Mom and I simply don’t have the money right now. But if you mowed lawns for the neighbors, you could earn the money in . . . how long do you think it would take?”
3. Use the request to build the relationship. Talk to the person about what they need/want out of the request, and let this flow into a discussion about what this person wants out of life. Get to know the person better and align with them wherever you can to support their goals.
Dad could ask, “If you had a bike, what’s the coolest thing you’d love to do with it?” After she responds, he can build on that response with encouragement and support for her goals. “Wow, that sounds exciting! What would we need to do to make that happen?”
4. Discuss consequences up-front. Say, “If I agree to this, then we first need to think through the ramifications.” Talk about the risks and opportunities that could occur. Talk about how to mitigate the consequences and leverage the opportunities.
Dad: “So, Hortense, what happens if you crash on your bike and break your arm? Who would fix your bike and how would you play on your ball team? I’m just making sure you’ve thought this through.”
5. Participate with them if possible. Don’t let them have all the fun if you can help it! With family members especially, you can often find ways to join in their request in an enjoyable way.
Dad: “Riding bikes really is a blast. And it would be fun to go with you to pick out a bike. Shall we go together on Saturday to shop?” or “Can I help you mow the first lawn for the neighbor and give you tips?”
6. Receive a Report. In case you can’t participate with them, invite them to give you a run-down on the activity afterwards along with their feelings about it and what they may have discovered.
Dad: “So I understand you went on a trail ride with the new mountain bike? What was the best part? What would you change for next time?”
Getting into a new habit of saying “Yes” and following through on the opportunities that are presented, will convinced you that in many cases, “Yes is best.”