Do you regularly say Yes, when you mean No?
There is an interesting book titled ‘The Abilene Paradox’ written by Dr Jerry Harvey in which he describes one of these typical such situations. Abilene is a town in Texas, in the USA, and it is the place where a number of he and his family members agreed verbally to travel when in reality none of them wanted to go there. No one was willing to speak up and say they didn’t want to go.
How many times have you sat in a meeting and this very thing occurred? Someone makes a suggestion, everyone looks at everyone else, and no one speaks up, or everyone other than the speak says “Yes, it’s an okay idea” and then when you leave the meeting you start hearing people say that they didn’t agree and didn’t want to speak up.
There seems to be common fear of being seen as the difficult team member if you are the one that doesn’t agree. You might also think that you are likely to cause conflict, when you don’t agree with the speaker or person putting forward the suggested resolution to the problem, for example.
What would it take for you to speak your truth, to say No, when you feel an honest No?
1. You would want to feel that someone had your back
It would be important that you felt that if you were going to speak up, that there was at least one other person who was feeling the same way and willing to speak up. This way you aren’t alone and isolated.
2. You would want to know that you could manage the conflict if it occurred
You would want to be confident that the meeting would not get out of hand and that you could deal with the conflict as it arose in the meeting by being able to hose down any extreme emotional outbursts that might take place.
3. You would want to feel okay speaking your truth, without judging yourself for doing so
The judgements that might play out in your head about being crazy for speaking up when no one else did, would need to be manageable so that you could at least feel okay walking in the corridor after the meeting without feeling as though all eyes were on you.
Each of these three things are ways to justify in your mind not speaking up.
You do not need to justify saying No. If others disagree with you, that is okay. They have a right to that opinion and it does not mean that you are wrong.
What I have noticed is when I am clear and know for myself why I am saying ‘No’ then I feel comfortable expressing it. In that moment, when I express it clearly and without emotion, people hear it and accept it. I am able to say ‘No’ without justification.
This is called “Giving an Honest No.” First you need to be clear what works and doesn’t work for you. You need to understand why it doesn’t work for you and not waiver or procrastinate about that. Clarity isn’t a Yes one minute, and a No the next.
Practice saying No without justification, when it feels like that is your honest response. You can respond with “Thank you I hear you, and No.”