When to say Yes and when to say No

photo by cpalmieri

I like saying “Yes!” to new opportunities and experiences … but not always.

Saying “Yes” to opportunities

I’ve been offered lots of opportunities to take on various responsibilities in my life such as: Becoming Manager of a business software company, taking over an Aikido club, and moving to Vancouver to become a Game Designer/Programmer.

They’ve all been fantastic growth experiences and I’m glad I said “Yes” to them. Sometimes people say “No” to such opportunities; perhaps because they think it will be too difficult, perhaps because they think that they won’t be able to do a good enough job, or perhaps because they are afraid of change. I had the same worries when I said yes, and I *did* have to work hard, and I *did* have to grow as a person in order to do the job, and there *was* a lot of change. And that is exactly why you should say “Yes” when a fantastic opportunity comes your way. Don’t shrink back into your comfort zone, come charging headlong out of it!

What opportunities have you said “No” to that you have regretted ever since? Is there an opportunity sitting on your plate right now (or just round the corner) that you can emphatically say “Yes” to? I hope so.

Saying “Yes” to your kids and loved ones

Last year when I was flying back to Canada form the UK I say a cheesy Jim Carey movie called Yes Man and I liked it a lot. After that I made a big effort to say “Yes” to my kids more often when they wanted me to do stuff with them or look at stuff. I was actually a bit sad to see that they looked surprised when they said “Dad, can you come and look at…” and I said “Yes!” and put down whatever I was doing. I was sad because I realised that I hadn’t been doing that enough :-(

Anyway, we can’t change the past but we can change the future. So I resolved to be a lot more of a Yes Man with my kids (I just stopped writing this to help my youngest son on World of Goo) and it feels great – although I can still do better. When you are old you’ll look back upon the special times you spent with your kids and you’ll be grateful that you didn’t do an extra 30 minutes of work here and there because you spent it doing something that mattered with your kids instead.

What can you do today with your kids that they’ll really appreciate and remember? Can you do that every day?

I think I’m pretty good at saying “Yes” to Helen (my loved one) when she asks me things; sometimes little things like “Can you make me a cup of tea?” and sometimes bigger things like “Can you look after the kids while I go away for a few days?”. I also try to do small things without being asked as a sign of love, and to do them with a good feeling.

Try saying “Yes” to your loved one next time they ask you for something and better still, try doing something loving spontaneously.

Saying “No” to responsibility

Recently someone asked me if I could take on permanent role at Toastmasters and I said “No (thanks)”. I’m already finding it quite a commitment to just write speeches and take on the various weekly roles that crop up at Toastmasters, especially combined with having a full-time job, 2 kids, and running an Aikido club amongst other things. I knew that the role I was being asked to do would just eat up even more of my free time and feel like a chore, and I didn’t think it was something that would help me grow – so I said “No”. Now, to be clear, I am very grateful that other people DO take up these roles at Toastmasters because I get to benefit from their generosity, and I hope that they get something from it too. Perhaps later on, when I don’t feel like every minute of my day is mapped out, I will take on a role at the club, so that I can give something back.

The next time someone asks you to take on a responsibility, consider “Is this a good fit for me? Can I do it easily? Will I enjoy it?”, and if not, then maybe you should say “No” even though you might feel “obligated”.

Saying “No” to loved ones

Sometimes loved ones may ask you to do stuff that you really don’t feel like doing right now (or ever :-) ). Sometimes what they are asking isn’t actually very important to them but would be a real hassle for you, so ask them “How important is this to you?” and figure out if you can say “No” without it being a problem, or perhaps “Sure I’ll do it, but I’d prefer not to do it at this instant. Can I do it later?” – that’s a good one to use when you are gaming and you get asked to put the trash out ;-) Just make sure you DO actually do it later otherwise you’ll build up resentment. Nobody likes a “sayer” who isn’t a “doer”.

Of course sometimes the thing you are being asked *is* important to the other person, and if you truly love them, then perhaps you should do it (like getting up in the night to deal with a screaming baby). However, occasionally you may have to say “No, I don’t feel like doing that. Why is this so important to you?” because the other person has have become fixated on something in a slightly obsessive way, and if you can get to the bottom of that you might be able to avoid doing whatever it is they want ever again! Watch out though, because many people don’t like having their “beliefs” or “habits” questioned in such a way…as the phrase goes “Choose your battles wisely.”

Is there anything that you would feel a lot better saying “No” to? If so, try to do it in as polite a way as possible – and remember that you might hear a few more (hopefully good-natured) “Nos” coming your way as a result, so be prepared for that. Good luck!


So I hope that I haven’t horribly confused you with my suggestions. Basically listen to your heart and if it feels right, say “Yes” and, if not, say “No” – it’s that simple. Watch out that it’s not your “lazy” self saying “No”, or your “ought to” self saying “Yes”. Saying “No” takes practice, and it won’t always be easy, but in the long run it’s easier than saying “Yes” to absolutely everything until you are utterly overwhelmed. Saying “Yes” to difficult things also takes practice, but can yield fantastic results, so go for it!

One Response to “When to say Yes and when to say No”

  1. Helen Says:

    awesome post :-)