My kids ask me for stuff all the time. I’m not talking about buying them things–they’re actually not too presumptuous in that area–no, my kids want to go places, have friends over, do things. For a long time, my immediate reaction was to say no: our schedule was always too busy, I needed to go for a run and didn’t have time to put myself back together, the house was a mess. Even if we eventually worked our way back to a yes or some modified version of it, everyone’s spirits sagged a bit from the process.
Somewhere along the way, I started saying yes more often. When I can’t give an unqualified assent, I offer a few alternatives.
“I want a tie dyed cake for my birthday.” — *gulp* “Okay.”
“Can I have a friend over on Friday, Mom?” — “I need to go to X place on Friday, but we probably have time on Saturday afternoon.”
“Can I go to the mall and hang out with Noah?” — “I’m expecting someone to come over and can’t take you right now, but if his parents can pick you up on the way, I don’t see why not.”
At 12:45: “Can I go to Megan’s party at 1, Mom?” — “Sure.”
Not too long ago, I would have categorically said no to each of those requests. I had plans on Friday, I wasn’t available to play taxi at the needed hour, 15 minutes was not enough notice. I don’t know what changed my approach, but I’m amazed at how much more smoothly things go when I start with a how-can-I-make-this-work attitude rather than simply denying a request because that’s the easier thing to do.
We’ve had some of this going on at work, too. No, no, no, is turning into let’s think about this. We still can’t accommodate every request, but working toward a common solution builds a lot more cooperative atmosphere than drawing a clear line between yes and no, regardless of the explanation that may accompany the no.
Sure, I sometimes fall back into old habits, but I’m getting a lot better. The best part is that I’ve found that the more often I say yes, the bigger my world becomes. I meet new people, make new things, see someone smile.
The yeses make my life a lot richer than the nos. Try it yourself.