What would happen if you said yes?
I’m generally an agreeable person.
Even as a shy, quiet kid (yes, really — why does no one believe that?), I’d find a way to connect easily with others. I attribute it to my easygoing nature and being someone more apt to say “Sure, let’s try it!” or “Great! Make it happen!” than to poo-poo an idea.
In other words, I say yes a lot.
Of course, this makes sense since I’m a positive person who’s all about what’s possible. To me, saying yes opens the door to new ideas, experiences, and people. And when I look back on the periods of my life with the most growth, they almost always coincide with me saying yes.
The funny thing about saying yes, particularly if you’re not used to doing it regularly, is that it gets easier over time — and may just change your life.
One of my favorite stories about the power of yes comes from award-winning creator, producer, and writer Shonda Rhimes (LOVE her!), who spent an entire year saying yes, agreeing to not just trivial things but also to the things that frightened her.
(OMG — can you imagine?)
In her best-selling book, Year of Yes, Rhimes explained that it all started when her sister said just six words to her at Thanksgiving: “You never say yes to anything.”
As a self-described introvert, those words gave Rhimes pause and led to a personal challenge. “For one year, I would say yes to all the things that scared me,” Rhimes shared in a moving TED Talk on the topic. “Anything that made me nervous, took me out of my comfort zone, I forced myself to say yes to. And a crazy thing happened: the very act of doing the thing that scared me undid the fear, made it not scary. My fear of public speaking, my social anxiety, poof, gone. It’s amazing, the power of one word.”
But there was one particular yes that affected Rhimes’ life in the most profound and unexpected way, and it started with a question from her toddler: “Wanna play?”
At the time, she was headed out the door, late to an appointment, but this was her “Year of Yes,” so she honored the request. In the 15 minutes of play with her daughter, Rhimes rediscovered what she calls “the hum”—a deep flow state of creativity and fulfillment she had previously only felt while working. Though the hum had been fading for her, this play break — and subsequent ones she said yes to — brought it back. Rhimes attributes this shift to saying yes to what she loved.
Isn’t that awesome?
It also begs the question, friends: When was the last time *you* said yes?
To help you get there sooner, here are five reasons why saying yes is one of the best decisions you can make for your career:
1. It opens you up to new challenges and opportunities.
If you wait until you feel ready to pursue an opportunity, chances are it’ll pass you by. But, on the other hand, saying yes means that you’re open to moving past your comfort zone and embracing a new challenge.
2. It invites collaboration.
There’s a reason improvisation is rooted in the phrase, “Yes, and...” Unlike no, which shuts down conversations and progress, saying yes opens up positive possibilities and invites others to build together, fostering collaboration, partnership, and further discussion.
3. It empowers and affirms others.
As a leader, choosing to say yes acts as an affirmation to others and their ideas: I hear what you just said. You’re paying attention, and they matter. And giving the green light signals trust, which empowers others.
4. It creates an environment where it’s safe to try, fail, learn, and innovate.
When you freely say yes, you create a risk-tolerant environment. You encourage innovation by trying new things and using the successes and failures as learning opportunities.
5. It makes life more fun.
Saying yes can bring you new sources of joy and lead you on an incredible adventure.
Not surprisingly, saying yes is linked to an essential workplace soft skill:* collaboration.
With the proliferation of global offices and the rise in pandemic-induced remote workers, today’s employers rely on their employees’ ability to collaborate with colleagues and customers across time zones now more than ever.
And in my latest Forbes article, I share why your value multiplies when you can effectively collaborate to connect with others and become a bridge to continued progress.
Here’s to saying yes for all the right reasons!
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P.P.S. When I’m not writing this newsletter or saying “yes, please,” I’m a social media ghostwriter. (Yep, that’s a thing). I help founders, entrepreneurs, and CXOs craft their stories to communicate and connect better by magnifying their reach and impact. (Think personal branding and thought leadership.) Learn more here.
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*I want you to learn how to cultivate and apply soft skills to your career, so I’ve created a multi-week series of articles on Forbes. My most recent article joins these previously published pieces:
This Soft Skill Helps Leaders Have (And Retain) More Innovative And Productive Teams (Empathy)
How To Harness The Power Of This Soft Skill To Immediately Electrify Your Career (Persuasion)
7 Easy Ways To Connect Better With Your Professional Colleagues (Connecting with others)
3 Ways To Master This Highly Valuable And Often Overlooked Leadership Soft Skill (Listening)
5 Ways To Sharpen The Soft Skill Every Leader Needs For Career Success (Communication)
6 Ways To Maximize Creativity When You Don’t Think You’re Creative (Creativity)