As much as I can, I try to say “yes” to people. I’m not a people-pleaser in that I don’t compromise my own feelings just to avoid conflict, but I do like when people say “yes” to me, so I try to do the same for others. I also have priorities and good boundaries, so I realize that I can’t say “yes” to everything.
I’ve learned that a good middle ground for me is to answer, “Yes, under these conditions.” Part of my worldview is that there are almost always multiple ways to solve any given problem, so I try to explore (and sometimes exhaust) those options before drawing a definitive line at “no” if I can.
This works great in parenting. My kids have asked me, “Can I yell at the top of my lungs?” My default answer as someone who generally likes quiet is “no,” but my “yes, under these conditions” answer is, “Sure, if you go outside.”
Or, they’ve asked, “Can I eat all the cookies I can?” Again, gut reaction is “absolutely not,” but I’ve found a version through “yes, under these conditions” that’s honestly more fun for everyone by saying, “Yep, you can eat all the cookies you can for the next 3 minutes. I’m setting a timer. Go!”
This works with colleagues and people that report to you too. “Can I do a blue sky design exploration of this idea?” “Sure! If you can finish some designs that gets the developers the stuff they need to keep busy for a few days, you can spend the rest of the week doing some explorations.”
This technique also allows me to try new things—read: take some risks—while still keeping my exposure limited. You won’t ever catch me doing any TikTok dances on any public account, but my private, burner Instagram account is full of them. (Go ahead; just try and find it.) Or, “I’ll try those chocolate-covered ants… but I’m only gonna have two.”
Next time you’re tempted to say “no” outright when someone makes a request of you, considering pausing for a beat to see if you have a version of “yes, under these conditions.”