Yes vs. No

Yes vs. No

In an uncanny coincidence, my cousin Peter Oye contacted me the other day looking for ideas to aid his campaign for president of the Afro-Carribean Society (ACS) of Loughborough University.

I call it uncanny because as some of you know, I held a similar position at my university for a while. So it was interesting to see that it "runs in the family" so to speak. We brainstormed over a few ideas of his and some of mine, and came up with a master plan - and I have been impressed with his execution of it. Especially this video which he put together all by himself.

Even so, my conversation with my cousin took me back a few years to when we were kids and what I thought of him then. Certainly, the person I see now is one very different from the one I remember. For as I child I always feared when my cousins (Peter and his twin brother Paul) would come over to visit, because it meant that something of mine would be broken. A video game, an action figure, something... something of mine would be broken for sure, and the parents and friends who had encouraged me to share my things would not be as quick to back up their words with their moneys.

Luckily for me, I was very good at saying No. In fact to this day, it remains my favourite reply to any request. A well timed "No," can save you from a long and boring sob story in which you have no interest, or buy you the time you need to fully consider the implications of saying "Yes". The way I see it, you can never go wrong with a "No," but every "Yes" is a risk taken explicitly.

To a simple question like "Do you like children?" a "No" prevents any further progress down that line of discussion, whereas with a "Yes" the next statement might be "Oh good, please babysit for me tomorrow." Now you have to start explaining why you would rather spend your time in your house watching TV, than in someone else's watching cantankerous children.

And what if you have some unspeakable or unjustifiable reason why you really don't want to watch those kids, aren't you then forced to lie? But forced by whom? Certainly not the person making an innocent request, but rather by yourself for even allowing the conversation to get that far.

Perhaps my example is not the best (for I can already see its flaws), but the point is this. Too often people say "Yes" without thinking deeply about what they are agreeing to, or what they are opening themselves up to because somehow saying "No" is considered a bad thing. People generally say "Yes" because if they stretched themselves in this way, or in that way, the thing being requested is achievable. But what is actually being asked is not whether you can stretch yourself to complete the request, but rather, whether you can comfortably do it.

There are of course also times when the request is not so light. Where you are indeed being asked whether you can stretch yourself to achieve. But such requests are usually easily differentiated from the rest, and if not, after the first "No," they will be made clear.

Furthermore, "No's" are far easier to retract than "Yes's". One can always change their minds about a No without inconveniencing anybody. But with "Yes's " you would be going back on a commitment. So I would rather lean towards the negative end of the spectrum because it's much safer and far easier to retract than the familiar "Yes." So why be a "Yes" man, when you can just as easily be a safer, more dependable "No" man?