Say ‘Yes’ to ‘No’

How many times you have found yourself in a flux because you accepted to do something half heartedly? How many times has it happened that you are a part of a situation which you shouldn’t have been? How many times you want to run away from what you are doing just because you don’t like what you are doing?

If the answers to these remind you of quite a few instances in your life then continue, else this post is not meant for you.

I have had numerous such instances throughout my life, and today, when I sit and analyze, more than half of them are because of me! Yes absolutely because of me. But why?

Well, just because I didn’t use ‘No’, one of the simplest words in the dictionary, as much as I should have. No doesn’t come naturally to me. I don’t even remember how many times I’ve said Yes when I actually wanted to say No. My instant reaction to anything assigned to me is Yes.

While we do not have control over everything that happens in life, we do have control over more than what we think. I could have avoided quite a few troubles if I said No at the very onset. Saying Yes when you mean No is as good as inviting trouble. It could mean spoiling relations, it could mean screwing up one’s schedule and what not. Eventually it could mean saying No when we want to say Yes just because we are in a screwed up state because of a wrong Yes. Let’s clarify a couple of phrases here:

Wrong Yes: Saying Yes when you want to say No.

Right No: Saying No when you want to say No.

I guess it is getting too complicated! If yes, please read the last paragraph again and continue 🙂

No is generally associated with a negative-ness. People who say Yes very often are acceptable more in the society than people who say No. They are considered more optimistic. But we must understand that there is nothing pessimistic about the right No. I believe the most successful (and satisfied) people in the world are those who have mastered the art saying No when required, even if that means going against the wind. People may not like it. But that is the way they go.

Saying a wrong Yes may help us build a short term relation, but if we don’t believe in what we are doing, we can never extend that relationship. Saying a right No may have a detrimental short-term effect, but that would give us enough bandwidth to do things which we want and possibly be more successful than do things which we don’t want to and fail.

I am working with the Software Industry and every time there is a decision to be made whether or not to take-up a project. Now executing a software project bottoms down to two things (from a technical perspective):

  1. If you have the right resources (people + expertise) to execute it.
  2. If the time-line is manageable.

It’s tough to say No when there is enough money to be made. But it is better to say No gracefully when you can not satisfy the above two criteria. A wrong Yes would not only mean screwing up the project but would also mean impacting other projects which are going well (hopefully 🙂 ).

I wouldn’t comment more as I don’t have enough experience yet, but one of the basic principles of economics says:

“Do what you do the best.”

More importantly sometimes, it is not about the ‘Capability’ to do something, but it is about the ‘Bandwidth’ to do it. So even if you have the ‘Capability’ but lack the ‘Bandwidth’, gracefully say No.

Also, saying No comes with a hidden Yes. For example: Saying No to work on Saturdays may mean saying Yes to spend time with friends and family.

Having said all this, it is not always possible to adhere to it. But I am sure our lives would be much simpler if we use the right No instead of the wrong Yes 50% of the time.

Notes to myself: Learn to say the right No.



Amit Srivastava

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 7 comments
Shweta - December 18, 2007

Hey! your thought is very much impressive..therefore we should be confident about our sayings specially for ‘Yes Or NO’ its all upto us ..thats why I Follow these words “What I Say I Do” for myself.

Really your thought is very inspiring.

Abhinav - December 21, 2007

Seems to me that this article echoes the same meaning as the saying, “Pleasing everyone is a sure way to failure”. Definitely something you should follow throughout.

Deepesh - December 21, 2007

I think this happens to everyone. One way I try to save myself from the shit following a wrong Yes is procrastination :-). If you can’t say No, don’t say Yes either and it has worked for me quite well. Sounds like a cheap diplomatic trick, but anything that saves your ass (and doesn’t kick anyone else’s) is worth it.

Amit Srivastava - December 28, 2007

@Shweta : Thanks

@Abhinav: That’s another good way to put it. We basically say the ‘Wrong Yes’ to please someone 🙂

@Deepesh: Your approach is ideal in quite a few situations. ‘To decide not to decide’ is also a decision. So I’ve got the title for another post 🙂

Anand - January 11, 2008

I guess you are not in the right place. More than saying yes or no, it’s important to choose the playing field. You can’t win in a game you don’t know how to play or which you are not good at. You might analyse the situation threadbare, but at the end of the day all you have done is identified symptoms and not the real problem.

Amit Srivastava - January 13, 2008

@Anand: Thanks for the comment. I agree that chosing the right game is important. Though not impossible it’s tough to win a game you are not good at. So aren’t we saying the same thing? Saying ‘Yes’ to the right game and ‘No’ to the wrong ones? 🙂

Lokesh Ranjan - January 30, 2008

Saying yes or no is a very complicated concept and it depends on individual personality and situation.
What I believe is being truthful always works.


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