We live in a culture that has encouraged us to go after what we want – to take risk and not be afraid to say yes to opportunity. This encouragement, I would say, has come from a shift in democracy. We no longer rely on our government to make the decisions for us but stand for causes and speak out when we feel that policies and procedures are not in the best interest of the people. This is particularly true in recent decades with Women’s and LBGT rights (to name a few.) But, I often wonder how this culture shift of acceptance and coming from a place of “yes” has played a part in our personal lives.
I find myself as a woman to be more liberated than ever when I see the likes of Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) & Hilary Clinton (U.S. Secretary of State) challenge the status quo and question processes that have previously been designed to keep women out of leadership positions and underpaid. But of the “yes’” these women had to declare to climb the ladder, I wonder how many “no’s” were uttered, personally and professionally.
As a driven, career & family oriented, twenty-something, I’ll admit, “no” has been more of a struggle than “yes” – Yes, I want a great career. Yes, I want to make more money. Yes, I would like to have a family one day. But, having a recent conversation with close friends, though we all wanted the same things we came to realize that there were decisions we had made in our past that we should have probably said “No” to along the way -No, I don’t think that’s a good salary for my position. No, I don’t want to date you. No, now is not the best time get involved with any extra-curricular activity. No, you can’t have my number.
I mean, imagine the heartaches/stress we’d go without and how much further we’d be along if we had said “no” instead of “yes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big supporter of spontaneity and welcoming opportunities but frankly there are some we can do without. A couple of days ago, I had given out my number, again, after a night out on the town with the ladies. He was cute but wasn’t that charming and had probably asked three other girls that night for their number, as well. First off – a club is never a great place to pick up a guy or vice versa and second – knowing the previous statement, what benefit could come from giving or receiving numbers other than temporary satisfaction (we’ll touch on this in later blog post.)
After inquiring for my number, it would have been as simple as “Sorry, I don’t give out my number.” He never ended up calling but I went home that night and practiced my “nos” in every way I possible could – subtle, demanding, happily –because I wanted to be sure that if I ever felt inclined to use it, there would be no doubt or hesitation. “No, perhaps we should further discuss my compensation”, “No, you’re just not my type.”, “No, this isn’t the best move for my career (perhaps I should explore other options).”
It’s about learning the balance and not welcoming every opportunity with a “yes” but knowing when to relocate and come from an attentive and judicious place of “no”.