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Why You Should Say YES Less Often

Kim Brebach - Friday, April 10, 2015

Why you should say YES less often

If you think you should be saying YES more often, think again. We've extracted some gems from a long post from Jacob Baadsgaard at Disruptive Advertising that make a lot of sense in hi-tech or any markets.

Most people find it hard to say NO, yet they'd do a lot better if they did so more often, according to Jacob BaadsgaardHis post is  about our reluctance to say NO to people or projects, or to the obligations we have or think we have. It’s a long post so I've grabbed a few key points. Here's a link to the full post. It will make you re-think. I certainly did.

The Psychology of Yesaholism

‘Anytime we say NO,’ says Jacob, ‘we risk losing something.  Say NO to a client or customer and you might lose their business.  Say NO to a co-worker and you risk losing face.  Say NO to your spouse ... you get the idea.

‘No one likes the idea of losing or being embarrassed, so we often say YES when we would really be better off saying NO.  Lo and behold, another yesaholic is born. To make matters worse, we praise the yesaholics of the world for their can-do attitude and productivity.  After all, they are the ones we can count on to get things done, right?’

Sure signs that you’re an addict

Jacob runs down a familiar list that includes working late to catch up, an overflowing inbox, no gaps left in your diary, not enough time for the family, for regular exercise and so on. The result is an inevitable case of paralysis, where even simple tasks become hard to complete.

Then comes this revelation:  ‘Saying YES is really saying NO. Whenever you say YES to one thing, you are effectively saying NO to something else.’ In other words, when you say YES to working back at the office, you're saying NO to spending more time with your family. When you say YES to attending more meetings, it's NO to having more discretionary time. When you say YES too often, you end up saying NO to lots of things.

Are you saying YES for the wrong reasons?

Jacob asks good questions. ‘If you say YES and can’t make good on it,’ he says, ‘you are handing someone short-term happiness in exchange for long-term misery.’ That’s a crucial point. We’re a marketing agency and, when we first started, we were tempted to say YES to prospective clients, even if the project wasn't a perfect match with our skills or the people a perfect match with us. We learned the hard way. Maybe you have too. 

It’s tough to say NO when the company in question is well-known and respected, and you think its logo would look great on your client page. You'd like to build a long term relationship with such a company, so you think future projects may be a better fit.  It's not like that though: if the first project or the people in the first meeting aren't a good fit, they probably won't be, ever. 

It's also tough at the other end of the scale: a really promising startup with terrific technology and visions of world domination in six months, yet no plan, no funding and no paying customers yet. You'd love to help, but organisations like this may not be a good fit. They certainly weren't for us: when we first started, other startups found us very attractive, but we ended up giving far more than we could ever charge, and nearly lost our own shirts.   

Learning to say NO for the right reasons

Over the years, we’ve learned to say NO to avoid the long term misery of ill-matched relationships. We’ve learned that saying NO shows that you know your business, you know who you want as clients and you’re not afraid to be upfront about it. We've also found that the prospects to whom we say YES work out to be a terrific fit, and we build long term relationships that are enjoyable, not just productive, for everyone. 

We’ve also learned that prospects respect you more when you say NO - and give your reasons - than if you say YES, but you're not really sure. We've even gained referrals from ill-matched prospects because they understood exactly what we do, even it it wasn't a good ft for them. 

These days we have a page on our website that spells this out: it's called Is this you? Here we make clear what we're really good at and what features distinguish clients who are a good fit. We also describe the sort of clients who are not a good fit. Apart from being consistent with our principle of helping prospects opt themselves on or out early, it saves everyone time, money and heartache. 

Happiness, quality and quantity

Jacob makes the obvious point that you can only make some of the people happy some of the time, and uses the old familiar question to illustrate his point.

The remainder of Jacob’s post goes into the issues of quality vs quantity, setting priorities and learning to say NO the right way. It’s well worth reading in full, because it refocuses the mind on important principles which can be missed, in the hustle and bustle of getting the job done. Here's that link to the full post again. 

Some timely thoughts, in my opinion. 


Kim Brebach
Content Chief

Kim loves people and words. He is our lateral thinker, ideas guy and genius story teller. He can conjure engaging technology yarns out of thin air.

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