Why Did I Say Yes?
By Dr. Henry Cloud
Challenge You desire one outcome, but your words take you to a different one.
Saying no is not just a surface issue. It’s deeply rooted and needs to be explored further.
Have you ever heard yourself say, “Whatever possessed me to say yes to this in the first place? Why didn’t I just say no?” Or, after negotiating a deal, have you ever though, “Why didn’t I ask for ___? I could kick myself!” If you have, that is pretty normal or at least common. However, if it happens often, it is also a problem. It reveals that sometimes you and your words are not on the same page.
You desire one outcome, but your words take you to a different one.
Do you catch yourself responding to requests with, “I don’t think I can _______” instead of saying, “No, I cannot do that” leaving the door open for them to push back?
As I said to a CEO recently who met with a key executive to terminate the relationship and then ended up extending the contract, “What happened? You went in to break up and came back engaged!”
When I say you have a relationship to words, that may be an idea you have never thought about. But what we find is that in the depths of people’s souls – where true behavior and its resulting success or chaos originates – there is a relationship with certain words. The nature of that relationship dictates a lot of what happens in people’s lives. If the relationship is good and they get along well with words, they use them to create and maintain a healthy structure and boundaries. But if they do not get along well with words, them structure and boundaries are compromised and their lives become fragmented as a result.
So, we are going to look at the word that have to do with why you find yourself in certain situations more than you might think. We are going to examine your relationship to some key words, including how you feel about them and how free you are to sue them, or not. Before we dive into looking at specific words and phrases, it’s important to understand how certain words become embedded, or internalized, in our lives.
One would think that when you say yes or no to something, your answer is based on the merits of what you want to choose. When you want to grant a request, buy a product, agree to a price, take an assignment, or go to lunch with someone, you say yes. If not, you say no. But in reality, that is not what always happens. Sometimes you may be on autopilot and have less choice in your response than you may think.
Think about people you know or even yourself. Have you noticed that there are people who routinely find themselves in some situation they do not want to be in? Inevitably, they land in some activity, relationship, scheduling conflict, or problem they do not want. The reason in not that they failed to just say no once or twice. They basically never say no. Their choices are rarely about their relationship with the word “no” itself. They are conflicted about the word at a very deep level. They reach down there in hopes of finding “no,” but it eludes them.
Or, think of the person on your team who know you cannot send to do that negotiation. When you need someone who can go into a meeting, ask for the moon, and expect to get it, this is the last person you’d call on. They just are the kind of people who never ask for what they want. For some reason, they can’t pull the trigger. As a result, they rarely get out of life what they desire, and oftentimes they don’t even get what they need. They get only what comes their way and nothing more. Then you know other people who can go into a meeting, ask for the moon, and get it. You exclaim, “How did you get them to agree to that?” And they answer, “I just asked for it, and they said fine.”
The difference is not that one person wants or needs the outcome any more or less than the other. In fact, often the person who needs something the most is the one who finds it more difficult to ask. The real difference is that some people have a longstanding relationship with certain words that renders saying them virtually impossible. The result of not saying those words when we need to, or saying them when we don’t, is that our lives become fragmented and scattered – a far cry from the integrated life we all want. Then we are truly out of control.