It’s Either Yes or No…Or Is It?

It's Either Yes or No...Or Is It?

When asked for a decision, I believe there are 3 kinds of people.  Those who:

  • tend to easily say yes
  • tend to say no
  • ask questions

I first became most painfully aware of this when my stepdad pointed out a painful parenting mistake I was making. He pointed out that I was inadvertently teaching my young daughter that no didn’t really mean no.  How?

She’d ask me for something.  I would say no.  She would say ‘but Mama…’ and then present a very persuasive argument. I would listen to her rationale and then say yes. By the age of 3½, she could have gotten anything she wanted from a SWAT trained negotiator.

See the problem?

I learned a valuable lesson.  Not just a parenting lesson. It taught me the value of learning to be in the group of people who ask questions first. Because it’s not just yes or no, there is another choice.

When You Say Yes or No First

If you are the kind of person who tends to say yes easily, odds are you end up in situations you may not particularly like.:

  • saying yes to doing something when you don’t really have the time – you end up compromising on things like personal time and sleep
  • getting caught up in someone else’s excitement about their priorities and somehow giving up on your own priorities as you agree to help them accomplish their goals
  • being the first person everyone asks when they need something because they know they can count on you…no matter what

If you are the kind of person who tends to say no first, you end up with your own situations you may not particularly like:

  • missing out on unknown opportunities because you said no automatically
  • being seen as stuck in your own perspective and uncoachable
  • being the person in your social group who people say ‘don’t bother inviting her, she always says no’

Neither is great. Both are easily remedied.

The Other Option

When people first begin to wrestle with this yes or no question, you hear things like “if it’s not a ‘hell yes’ it’s a no”. You might find yourself pouring over articles about co-dependency. Everything seems to focus on black and white decision-making. Yes or no.

I believe there is a third option.

It’s the option of pausing first.  Pausing to:

  • give yourself time to think
  • ask questions so you are clear about the decision you are making
  • answer from a place of your own centered power rather than a need to immediately gratify the person asking

Every once in a while, when first faced with a decision, the answer will be an obvious yes or no.  However, it’s more likely that you need to pause first.  Train yourself to first respond with “Can you tell me more?” This gives you time to pause and think.

As you think, you can choose to:

  • ask more clarifying questions until you arrive at a yes or no
  • realize there is someone else who needs to be involved in the decision. In this case, instead of yes or no, to say “I need to check with [NAME]. I’ll get back to you tomorrow.”
  • understand the time required for your commitment. In this case, to say “I need to check my calendar.  I’ll get back to you later today.”

Whatever comes out of your pause for discernment, if a yes or no isn’t clear, you have the opportunity to state your need before you arrive at a decision.

With this opportunity comes the responsibility of standing in your own centeredness as you mindfully make a decision.  It might take a little practice. I know you will get there!

Your Turn

Can you think of a situation recently where you said yes or no when a pause might have been better? Are you going to try it out next time you have a decision to make? Can you see the benefit?

Photo Credit: Torli Roberts |

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Rachel is a coach supporting women to rediscover who they are beyond the *shoulds* of life. To create and live life on purpose.

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