Why Do People Say Yes?
Many of us go through our daily lives, continually saying yes to a range of requests and demands from others around us. With each interaction, we say yes to new tasks, responsibilities, opportunities and relationships. And every time you and I say yes, we expand our varied roles, add to our existing workload, schedules and obligations. And before you know it, you find that your bandwidth has shrunken, and you feel overextended from having stretched yourself too thin. With so many people struggling with fatigue, burnout and stress, why do you continue to say yes?
There are many reasons people say yes to the seemingly never-ending demands on their time, resources and talents. Some of the main reasons they say yes include, but are not limited to their need to:
- Respond to challenges and seize new opportunities
- Build and preserve relationships personally and professionally.
- Meet the expectations and needs of friends and loved ones.
- Fulfill varied roles and responsibilities related to work.
- Learn new skills to enhance their growth and development
- Expand their influence and impact on the world around them.
- Be recognized, valued or affirmed.
- Respect the power dynamic in relationships and organizations (Playing politics).
- Avoid the consequences of saying no, or the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).
Regardless of your reason for saying yes, have you ever paused to consider the hidden costs of doing so?
The Power of Saying Yes
In her TED Talk- My Year of Saying Yes, Shonda Rhimes talked about her experiment where for one year, she said yes to everything that scared her, made her nervous and pushed her out of her comfort zone. Rhimes shared how the act of saying yes and doing the things that scared her, made them less scary. And she further explained how saying yes to everything, changed her, her life, helped her rediscover her creativity and ultimately saved her career. She is not alone. Founder of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson is also a big champion of saying yes. According to Forbes, he earned the nickname Dr. Yes, because he prefers to say yes instead of no. And his belief in saying yes and “fortune favors the bold” were instrumental in shaping the Virgin Story.
Therefore, there is no denying that saying yes can be life changing. Whether it is to a marriage or business proposal, this three-letter word has the potential to open doors to great possibilities and to unleash power to those who say it. Afterall, saying yes to a call for volunteers can expand your personal and professional network and give a new sense of meaning to your life. Saying yes to a work assignment, can equip you with new skills or shift you towards a new and exciting career path. Saying yes, can provide you with limitless experiences and exposures that could expand your horizons.
The Hidden Costs of Saying Yes
Every yes you give, has an opportunity cost. With only 24 hours in a day, and 365 days in a year, time is a precious and scare commodity. Each time you say yes, you are saying no to something and someone else. And before you know it, your yeses can add up, and become very expensive to your well-being and overall personal effectiveness. For example, saying yes to a project team at work, might mean less time during the workday to complete your primary duties and potentially longer hours in the office. And saying yes to a new opportunity, could result in less time for leisure activities and downtime on the weekend with loved ones. So, with each yes you give, you risk taking on increasing responsibilities, which left unchecked can lead to you becoming overworked, overused and burnout.
And if your word is your bond, or you do as you say you will do, saying yes also obligates you to show up for others. A yes to a simple, small or random request from a co-worker, stranger or loved one, will require you to organize yourself and your resources to respond. This can become especially problematic for people who hold themselves to high standards. In that, the need to perform, meet expectations and fulfill promises, can create additional stress and pressure which can become burdensome fast. Ultimately, saying yes will require you to practice greater levels of prioritization and to make deliberate efforts to maintain work -life harmony. So, each time you say yes, you put your reputation, resources and relationships on the line.
Additionally, being labelled a “yes- person” isn’t exactly flattering. Saying yes to everything and everyone could create the impression that you’re a people pleaser. And that you lack the ability to communicate assertively what your needs, goals and priorities are. It might even suggest that you lack the ability to manage your time and set appropriate boundaries. So how do you decide when to say yes?
When to Say Yes?
I recently came across a quote that says, “It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.” This means that in saying yes, you should consider how your yes aligns to your priorities, broader objectives for your life and how you want to impact your world. But as you do that, you will still need to be careful not to bite off more than you can chew.
So, here are two tips from A.T. Gimbel that you can use to evaluate your yes /no and still maximize opportunities to achieve your goals and live a successful and fulfilling life:
- Evaluate your gum balls vs your glass balls: According to this analogy, “Glass balls break when dropped and need to be handled immediately or the mess from it breaking is even worse to clean up. Rubber balls will keep bouncing over and over again and do not need to be immediately picked up. Eventually they stop bouncing and often roll away; worst case you have to stop and pick it back up. Say yes to the glass balls over rubber balls.”
- Be explicit about tradeoffs: Ask yourself, “What am I saying no to if I say yes to this? If I am choosing between A or B, how do I make it clear to my customer/team/partner that I am making this prioritization?” Doing this will make it easier for you to explain and get support for the tradeoff you are making and why.
In the final analysis, you cannot and shouldn’t say yes to everything and everyone. Your yes should mean something and be given after you have considered your existing roles (at work and at home), the potential costs and benefits to you and your loved ones, and the impact you wish you have on the world around you.
Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!