You can imagine my great shock then when Nance, (my teacher of UCLA's Business Development Class) called me out on the first day of class. "You say NO a lot," she declared. "No, that's not true," I thought to myself. "Ugh oh...I just said the dirty word." Her insightful comment made me realize that my analytical background was popping up in unwelcome ways. As a database manager, I was forced to organize the messy world into neat boxes. There were only two answers to every question: yes and no.
She advised that there is only one correct answer to any question, and it is an enthusiastic "YES." "How could the answer to any question possibly be YES?," we collectively wondered. The atmosphere of the class started to feel shifty, uncomfortable, and quiet. One student asked skeptically, "Are you saying we should lie?" She continued on about the power of the words "yes" and "no" to influence the outcome of conversations. She told us that the goal of a conversation is to build a connection, not an opportunity to split hairs about facts. It's more important that you exude a welcoming aura. I still wasn't convinced...
We role-played scenarios where another student asked me a question and I had to answer with a "yes," even though my instinctual answer was "no." A man to my right asked, "So, your work in GIS is about reorganizing IT Infrastructure?" "I wanted to say, "No, it's really a lot broader than that. IT is a just one part of the GIS field." Instead I said, "Yes, GIS is about reorganizing...we give people tools to make decisions in different ways than they are used to. We try to reorganize the way they think. We encourage spatial thinking, or the idea that location matters in most decisions."
OK, I finally get it! You can say "yes" to any question if you back up and consider the question in a broad sense. You have to look for nuggets of truth, areas of overlap, or analogies and build on the commonalities in your response. The extra effort will go a long way to make your listeners feel good about their conversations with you.
Good bye NO, you have been banished from my vocabulary!!