white house, say no to the task, yes to the person, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner

Say No to the Task. Say Yes to the Person.

Is no your favorite word? It has been mine. Not so much anymore, although I’m a bit late joining the yes wagon.

Why do we gravitate to no?

When my kids were little, before they even finished their sentence, I was already on NO. They tricked me a few times. “Mom, you want us to clean the bathrooms?” No. Oh, wait a minute. What did you say? Of course, I wasn’t listening, but it’s more than that, isn’t it? Something in our DNA makes us want to say no.

Or is it because we’re told no, over and over? So that, after a while, we quit asking or speaking. Got a boss that only has a no vocabulary, and so you’ve given up with the ideas? You just quit bringing new thoughts or new suggestions to the table because you already know they’ll be tabled? Or a spouse that is going to say no again to date night? Or a long-needed project? Or a walk and a conversation?

I knew this guy once whose father was a small-town, Illinois judge. His mother was a stay-at-home-mom. They lived on a quaint street where children rode their bikes to school. A white, clapboard house with lots of character, but small rooms describes their house. The story goes that the mom asked for years for a wall to be knocked down between rooms, opening up the interior space. The father repeatedly said, “No, that’s a load-bearing wall.” As it turns out, every wall in that house was evidently a load-bearing wall. He said no, and she finally quit asking. He regretted that later, before he died. Why hadn’t he done this one thing for his wife? If it meant so much to her that she asked over-and-over for years, why did he say no? And, when had finally she quit asking?

There. That’s the question to ponder. When did they (fill in the blank–your employees, the people you supervise at work, your spouse, your kids, your friends) quit asking? When did they finally become silent? Or do we silence them?

We all need to say no to more tasks. Our plates are full. I know. The trade I’m in is a feast or famine industry, and right now, everyone I work with is being pulled every which way but Sunday. So, no has its place. But my point is not that we should take on more.

My point is to say no to the task, and yes to the person.