Learning to Say “Yes.”

Posted December 27, 2012 by Ellen Hunter Gans in On the Ladder
yes woman

As capable, post-modern women, we hear it a lot: be willing to say “No.” Prioritize. Delegate. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Keep things manageable.

This is all sound advice — but a funny thing starts happening when we get used to saying “No.” We draw a circle around ourselves, creating delineation between: a) what is acceptable, manageable, and comfortable to us; and b) everything else.

It’s a mechanism of self-preservation, but it’s also limiting. If we’re only willing to grab opportunities that are well within our comfort zones, how do we ever expand those zones?

Case in point: I was offered an exciting, high-urgency project on Friday afternoon.

It’s not within the scope of my usual work.

The client needs something by Monday.

Oh, and it’s the weekend before Christmas.

“Yes, yes, we know it’s probably unrealistic,” the client apologizes. I can tell that they’re expecting me to say no. After all, it would be the reasonable thing to do.

Then I heard myself saying yes.

It’s not bungee jumping or singing karaoke on live television: it’s just working through a holiday weekend. It’s not revolutionary; people do it all the time. But doing so voluntarily goes against the default response. It’s a little uncomfortable. It may lead to more work. And even if it doesn’t? It paid for a few holiday gifts.

So by the time you read this, I’ll have spent the weekend diving headlong into a fascinating, challenging project. I’ll have squeezed in some cookie baking and some egg nog drinking in between long stretches of work. And we’ll still celebrate Christmas with my side of the family on Sunday — a little sleepy, a little haggard, but it’ll happen. That’s non-negotiable. After all, I’ve drawn a circle around my spouse and my family that won’t budge.

About the Author

Ellen Hunter Gans

Ellen Hunter Gans is a freelance writer and communications strategist. She's also a marathon runner, an Ironman triathlete, a wildly untalented cross-country skier, a newly minted Crossfit junkie, a yoga devotee, a wannabe culinary genius, a voracious reader, a grammar snob, a world traveler, an outdoorswoman, an oenophile, a mediocre gardener, and a secret fan of awful television. Her blog is at www.lifeinreviews.com, and her business website is at www.wordcoutureconsulting.com.