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I’ve recently noticed that people have one of two different natural reactions to any sort of news, idea, or learning opportunity. Most people either say “Yes,” or “No.” This isn’t a right or wrong thing. Just think about the last five times someone presented an idea they had to you. Or think about the last time you were reading a textbook. Which thought more often naturally pops into your head? Is it “Yes, let’s go for that.” Or “No, I don’t think that’s going to work.”
The funny thing is, whichever one we naturally tend towards, we still often end up choosing the other. This is much more about the process of decision making than it is the initial reaction. It’s just fascinating to see the way different people react differently to the same situation.
Here’s a little insight into my life: I’m a “Yes” man. That doesn’t mean I always say yes to everything, but my usual reaction to any content in a book, any idea, or any challenge is, “Yes, I should integrate that into my life.” It’s not until after a time of praying, processing and thinking that I come to my actual conclusion of a real yes or real no. Perhaps, this is connected to my desire to please people. But I think it’s just a natural wiring.
And I see the opposite happening in my wife. She’s incredibly discerning and a stickler for truth and excellence. I appreciate her deeply. Her first response to most things she reads in books or hears from people is, “No, I don’t think that’s going to work.” We will read the same content in a book and come to the same conclusion in the end, but we both had very different initial reactions to the content. I started with Yes, and she started with No.
But this idea gives us insight into our own thoughts and the way we interact with people. My guess is that when you interact with someone different from you, it’s painful. I’ll be honest, interacting with “natural No’s” bugs the heck out of me. I really don’t like hearing that natural no. It rubs me wrong. Perhaps, it’s hitting on a weakness in my personality in terms of my desire to finish things efficiently or to get my way. The same is true of me with natural no people. Do you know how annoying it is to get a positive response initially only to have the person come back and say, “Jsut kidding, I won’t let you do that” within a couple of weeks? You just invested all this time and energy into this idea only to have the other person shoot it down. Unfortunately, I do that to people all the time. To be honest, I’m sort of amazed I have any friends or coworkers left.
Yet, when I can slow down and relax, I see some deep insights. I don’t need to be nearly as pushy with my ideas as I am. And the process of going from “No” to “Yes” is actually insanely useful for me. When a deep thinker, like my wife, goes from “No” to “Yes,” it carries weight. It has real value. The Yes isn’t fickle like mine. It’s found on careful process. And the people who hear my initial yes changed to a no can rest in knowing that I’ve evaluated the idea from many different angles and although my desire is to implement it, I know that it’s not right for the season we’re in.
I hope you’ll consider letting go of your frustration over people who are different than you. I hope you’ll let them open your eyes to the process and the outcome of Yes and No.
For further study on how the systems of our brains work, check out Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow.”