As a boy, my dad had an unusual parenting philosophy. His goal was to say “yes” to everything I asked for. Sounds awesome, right? It was. But those yes’s came with if’s. Which meant more times than not I didn’t get what I asked for, even though my dad said I could have it/do it. Here’s a brief example to show you what I mean.
Me: “Dad, can I have a King Cobra snake?”
Dad: “Yes son, of course you can! First, jump on the phone (we didn’t have Internet in those days) and find out if it’s legal. If it isn’t, start lobbying your senators, representatives, mayors, governors, and/or whoever sets that law. If it is legal, or when you get them to make it legal, make me a list of all the hospitals in the area that can treat a King Cobra bite, plus have at least one vial of anti venom for every member of our family, and our puppy Rosie. Your next step is to take 10 hours of poisonous snake handling classes. Then you are set, assuming you have the money.”
It may sound like he would be pulling a bait and switch, but he wasn’t. He would be serious. If I did those things, I could have a King Cobra. In this case, I think I would have decided not to get the snake. But that’s an important distinction: I would have been the person saying no to the snake, not my dad. He was empowering me to make decisions based on reasonable conditions; and as a secondary benefit, he was telling me that he believed in my ability to make things happen.
Whether it’s to your boss, a client, or someone you care about, finding ways to say “yes” makes people love being around you. It also forces you to grow far outside your comfort zone, and growth like that typically leads to higher paying jobs and more satisfying relationships.
Here are some tips on saying, “Yes! If…
The “yes” needs to be authentic
Don’t turn yourself into a yes woman who can’t fulfill on your promises. Be authentic. If there is no way to make something happen, say “no.” But I think you’ll find that if you follow the next steps, most of the time you can find a way to say “yes.”
Reasons we say “no”
Usually we say “no” because of a time or money restriction — a belief that there is a better way, our ego, a lack of understanding of what is being asked and why, and/or laziness. If you are saying “no” to a request because of one of these reasons, take a hard look at why and find a way to say “Yes!” If you are saying “no” because it is illegal, immoral, or impossible (really impossible not just perceived), then pat yourself on the back.
The “if” needs to be reasonable
This isn’t about saying yes to things that you won’t do and therefore putting up unreasonable hurdles to prevent you from having to do the work. It’s about identifying real obstacles to producing the requested result, and making those obstacles clear. Including potential solutions for how to overcome them.
Be up front
You can’t say “yes” in the beginning and then throw up some ifs three months later (unless you have adequately explained this may happen.) At the time you say “yes,” think through what you are agreeing to and what the obstacles will be. If you need a minute/day to figure out what those are say, “Yes, and I am not sure what that looks like. Can I get back to you tomorrow?”
Explain the trade-offs
“Trade-offs are central to economics, as they are to life. They are at the heart of economics because neither the decision-maker nor society can have everything it wants.” – Donald Campbell, Trade-off Theory
If a client, or your boss, asks for something that has no tradeoff, then you probably should just say “yes “with no conditions. But most requests come with trade-offs because we live in a world with limited time and money.
Here’s an example: If a client asks you to write 500 new ads for approval by Friday, you might not have time to finish the mobile landing pages you’ve been working on. You know that you haven’t been running any traffic to mobile devices for a month, and you know that this affects 25% of your total traffic. So you tell your client, “Yes, I can have that done. Currently I am working on mobile landing pages, which I suspect will increase your traffic and hopefully your conversions by 25%. In my experience you are not likely to see that level of improvement from ads. Which of the two would you rather me focus on this week?”
Explaining the trade-offs allows your clients/boss/partner to decide based on what they feel is most important, and that in turn allows you to focus on what creates the most value, which won’t always be what you assume it is.
Don’t burn out
Saying “yes” to everyone and everything is a sure way to burn yourself out. The “if” statement is your tool to protect against this burn out. You are the only person who knows your resource limitations, so when someone asks you for something, you can’t expect them to understand what those limitations are. Your “if “ statement should include considerations of how much you can truly do and stay sane.
Saying “yes” more means that your clients/boss/partner will see you as a person who finds a way to make things happen. Even if the end result is that you don’t do what is being requested; you’ll be seen as a cooperative go-getter who finds ways around obstacles.