Always Say Yes

One of my guiding principles is “Always Say Yes.”

In first grade I was asked to climb up the stairs to the podium and deliver the readings at our weekly Catholic mass–a terrifying concept for a 7 year old to speak in front of hundreds of people.  I hesitated.

The priest told me that giving the readings would help other people to find comfort, support and meaning in their lives.  I shook my head in understanding. It’s the first time I recognized that saying “yes” wasn’t really about me—it was about giving something of value to others.

That conversation has shaped who I am as a person and a professional.  When I made the transition to move across the country this summer there were lots of opportunities presented to me, from volunteering at commencement, speaking at an Admissions event, accepting an invitation to dinner at a professor’s house and trying new physical challenges like hiking and yoga.  I accepted every time.  Each experience taught me something new and usually allowed me to give back in some way—the ultimate win-win situation.

I struggle with the conversations about “balance” in our profession, as I once mentioned in my blog post about “living a blended life.”   (  Mainly because I believe life is about saying yes—to whatever gives you joy.

Each day we make choices on how we choose to spend our time.  There are times where we do have to say no and if we embrace a model of typically saying yes it can be hard to decline a new opportunity, project, invitation, etc.   I recently read a fantastic article entitled “”Effective People Say Yes and No” and it listed great examples of how to say no whenever appropriate:

“Effective people have developed ways of saying no that reduce the tension associated with doing so. They tend to set up the conversation in ways like this:

•          My first reaction is to say yes, but I’d like to discuss this because I am over extended right now.

•          I need to say no to this, but let’s talk because I want to be supportive of you.

•          Let me think about what you are asking. I want to say yes, but I’m worried about my ability to deliver right now.

•          If there is no other way to get this done, I will do it. But I’d like to talk about it first because it’s not a good fit with my interests and abilities.

•          My first reaction is to say no, but let’s talk about it and see where we end up.

The article concludes with the following statement that may serve as the revised version of my previously stated motto:

“So, say yes whenever you can. Deliver each and every time you say yes. Say no when it is the best response. Say no in a way that works for others.”

What are your thoughts about saying yes? How do you balance new opportunities with the realities of day to day obligations?


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About annmarieklotz

I write about all things education, personal & professional development and growth. Once is a question, twice is a discussion and three times is a blog post! Born and raised in Detroit Michigan but currently calling the Pacific Northwest home. I work at Oregon State University and belong to a fantastic community of higher ed professionals around the globe! Lover of theater and the arts. Live your best life!
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9 Responses to Always Say Yes

  1. Great post, as usual Ann Marie. I try to say yes to as many opportunities that come my way as well. You never know where something may lead.

    By saying yes, I have rekindled my love of writing, have sat around the table with senior student affairs practitioners and have built incredible connections with colleagues around the globe. A simple yes can open a lot of doors!

    When I need to say no to something, I like to think that just because it is a no right now doesn’t necessarily mean it will always be a no.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Dena Kniess says:

    This is a great post Ann Marie! I’ve tried to practice this in what I do because I believe (and this is one of my top 5 strengths – Learning) that every new experience is a chance to not only learn something new, but to give back to others. My former supervisor gave me a book called “Thank You” and in the note to me, she indicated that she appreciated my ability to always come from a place of “yes” and can do. However, there is always a time when saying “no” is the most appropriate response and no means, just not right now.

    Great post – would love to chat with you at some point about writing blog posts or for the WISA post!

    • Thanks Dena! The “giving back” piece is so important–you totally personify that! Coming from a place of “yes” will always help us in our work with students and staff 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Ana M. Rossetti says:

    Thanks for another great thought-provoking post, Ann Marie! Like many others in our field and many women in particular, I tend to say “yes” to most things for which I am asked – both in my personal and professional life. I am still learning how and when to say “no” (I’ll be using some of the examples you provided!). Another important part of this conversation is drawing from that same spirit that leads us to say “yes” and use it to push us to ask for things ourselves. We need to ask so that others have an opportunity to learn, discover, and give back by saying “yes” to us, or by having the opportunity to find that personal balance and discern when the answer is “no”. I don’t ask as much as I should. So, here’s my challenge to myself and others reading is this: For every time you say “yes” somewhere in your life, think of an ask that you can make — because your asking is not just for you, it could be an opportunity for someone else too. In addition to being a vehicle to get us things we want or need, can we also think of “asking” as a gift of the yes/no discernment process for others?

    • Thanks Ana! Advocating for ourselves is an important tool we can use to say “yes” to ourselves–totally agree! Your whole response could be another blog post in itself. 🙂 Thanks for always having beautiful, thoughtful things to add in any conversation!!

  4. Crystal White says:

    I say no when it interferes with my priorities, I.e., family or church. I still use the word balance which I am re-evaluating. I think professionally when I say yes, I have to remember to consult with family and also Pray that I am taking the right step. I remember having an internship in grad school and my boss that one of assignments was to publish an article. While I did not really have a choice, I did it and it changed my thoughts on publishing. I could go on and on with examples but i wont. You have given me something to think about.

  5. Pingback: Literally, Learning How to Say No | >>> Live >>> Grow >>> Lead >>>

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