A good interviewer or host knows the secret to an engaging conversation with a guest is to ask questions that cannot be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. However, many things in life can be distilled down to exactly that: Yes or No.
Despite the obvious interpretation that ‘yes’ is positive and ‘no’ is negative, we learn from an early age that life is not that simple. For a child, many manifestations of ‘yes’, including the non-verbal ones (a hug, a smile, a helping hand), are indeed positive.
But, just as surely, we discover that ‘no’ can also be positive if it is used correctly.
We may have resented our parents for saying, No! You cannot stick that key in a light socket or No, you are not allowed to spend all your money on candy, but eventually we recognized that in those instances, their ‘No’ was simply a different way of saying Yes, I love you enough to keep you safe from harm.
Similarly, ‘Yes’ became a negative thing if a sombre nod confirmed that a beloved relative or pet was seriously ill and likely to die.
As we grew older, the answers in life got more complicated. And I don’t mean ‘maybe’.
I’m no stranger to ‘NO’. I’ve worked in direct marketing, and my stint as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesperson in the early 80s has helped me deal with the rejection inherent in submitting my writing to journals and publishers. Fortunately, ‘Yes’ is a strong part of my life too. I know that I am valued and loved.
Our life experiences and self-esteem influence how we react to ‘yes’ and ‘no’. So, why do we still get it wrong after all these years? Now there’s a question without a simple ‘yes or no’ answer! And my point is not to bore with my attempts to answer it, because the personal journey I make to that place will be different from yours.
What I will do is share a couple of things that have helped me explore that question for myself. Both of these links (one to an article, the other to a video) brought home the fact that, as much as I am affected by the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses I get from other people, it is the YES or NO answers that I give to myself that really makes the difference.
The first link is for an article by Kevin Ashton (Thoughts on Creativity) about the power of ‘No’ when it comes to protecting the creative mind from unnecessary distractions.
The second link is to a TED talk video featuring Amanda Palmer, (The Art of Asking) that has inspired me to say ‘Yes’ to taking more risks; to making myself vulnerable by asking for what I need, even if it means that the answer I get could very well be ‘No’.