“You are always saying yes to something.” Jen Casey
It’s impossible to ignore the pain the world is in right now. When I originally wrote this blog post back in 2019, I was thinking about my usual, day-to-day considerations. And while it still applies to those considerations, I realized that it also applies to bigger social issues. Whatever actions you take — or don’t take — in response to racism, gaslighting, or societal apathy, you are saying yes to something. Make sure that yes is intentional. Make sure it reflects what you want to see in the world.
I recently listened to a podcast (“The Inner Boss“by Jen Casey, episode 152) that made me think about how I approached decision making. I was originally going to say “how I approach consensus-based decision making” but really, this applies to any decision making at all. From what to have for dinner, to whether to approve a change to a technical specification, or even whether it’s time to end a contract, it’s worth considering the following:
“You are always saying yes to something.”
When I first heard that on the podcast, I thought “Well, I’m pretty sure that decision I made last week about whether to turn on my video camera for a conference call at the demand of some stranger was a pretty hard ‘nope’, not a ‘yes’.” Which, while true, wasn’t the point. That particular decision was a hard nope to what I considered a somewhat manipulative demand to control the meeting, but it was also a yes. In that case, it was a yes to “I am going to position myself in a less than positive light to this individual who feels the need to see the person they are talking to.”
I’m still quite comfortable with my decision in that moment, but it was enlightening to consider it from the perspective of: if I say no to one behavior, what behavior or action am I doing instead? What are the implications here? By saying no to one thing, I might be agreeing to a status quo (at least for a time), or agreeing to continue an unhealthy behavior, or even agreeing to let a problem continue to exist even though it’s, well, a problem.
This idea of “what did I implicitly agree to” is something that will change how I drive the meetings and decision making in the groups I work with. I see this kind of thinking as a way to make people really consider the ramifications of their actions (or their lack of actions). Even a simple question in the last ten minutes of a call — “Are we all ok with letting this issue persist for another two weeks until our next call, or do we want to schedule some time to work on it sooner?” — has the potential to make a big difference in getting work done.
Maybe the no, or the delay, is the right thing to do in the moment, but it’s always, ALWAYS better to make mindful decisions with an understanding of the consequences, than it is to just say “no” or “let’s discuss later” because it’s the easier path.
And now for my next question in life: if I say ‘no’ to eating my vegetables, what did I implicitly agree to?