Getting From ‘No’ to ‘Yes’


At a program I was facilitating once, I heard a speaker give some career advice that really resonated with me. Her message: Find ways to say yes.

Saying yes could mean that you have to challenge yourself to find a way to make something work. But sometimes it can be as simple as changing the way you frame your response: Maybe you’re trying to say yes, but it sounds more like no.

For example, I coached a client who was telling me about a project that her boss wanted her to complete in a short timeframe. She said, “I have to tell him I can’t get the whole thing done.”

I talked to her about the importance of framing things in a positive way and emphasizing what she can do. She could tell her boss, “I hear what you’re asking. I can get more than half of it done. Let me work with you to figure out how we can get the other half completed.”

That tweak didn’t change the essence of what she was saying. We just reframed her reply to demonstrate that she is control, dedicated to moving things forward in a positive way, and a team player. “I can’t get the whole thing done” would have made her sound more like a roadblock.

Need ideas for finding your way to “yes”? Here are three tips.

  1. Notice. Start by simply noticing how often you say no instead of yes, at work and beyond.

  2. Pause. Pause before you reply. In those short seconds, challenge yourself to respond in a positive way to demonstrate that you are aligned.

  3. Ask. Ask for what you need, if anything, to follow through on your yes. Perhaps it’s additional resources or help from your boss to reprioritize your other projects to accommodate this new request.

This week, look for opportunities to turn no into yes. By consistently taking small steps respond more positively, your mindset and how others view you will shift. And remember, small steps lead to big results.