practicing yes

(Video link here.) This week I’ve been contemplating the challenge of saying yes. I was sent a TED Talk from last year in which Sasha Dichter discusses a neat experiment: for a full month, every time he was asked for something, he said yes. Dichter works in philanthropy, so cultivating personal generosity and connecting it to his work has a very particular meaning. But he raised an interesting point that we think is worth thinking about in our own lives. As a philanthropist, Dichter grew very comfortable saying “no,” but found that

“…pretty soon no becomes who you are and what I realized is, I needed a new habit and a new reflex. When I want to teach my kids to say please and thank you, it requires repetition and it requires practice.”

I started thinking about this idea of saying yes as a practice; what saying yes more often might look like. What’s buried beneath all the No? Maybe saying yes means giving someone my spare change, doing a friend a favor, or going out to eat with someone I haven’t seen in a while. Maybe it means making a donation, or signing a petition, or going to an event I wouldn’t normally attend. Whatever its shape, how would it make me feel?

After a month of practicing yes, Dichter felt more generous, more open, and more action-oriented. He felt more Yes than No. Although I initially bristle at the idea of replying with “yes” when “no” is more comfortable, I’m dying to know what Yes feels like.

For those who aren’t ready for the yes experiment, make it private practice. What would saying yes look like for you?

Want to know how to say YES in American Sign Language?

–Sarah M.

Related posts: ‘don’t say yes. be yes.’
7 principles of comedy/design/creating anything
a sky full of ‘yes’
tina fey’s 4 1/2 rules (in 4 1/2 minutes)

3 Responses to practicing yes

  1. Elizabeth 10.17.2011 at 12:10pm #

    I don’t know or “no” about this, as I’ve finally become comfortable saying “no.” I now have more time and more focus for the things that really matter. Those I say “yes” to.

  2. T. Dixon 10.17.2011 at 1:27pm #

    This seems like a gender issue; many women are trying to learn how to say “no,” without guilt or any other negative feeling. Saying “yes” to anything that comes along is a habit for many women and for many people who find themselves in jobs in which they have a minimum degree of power. I’d say his position allows him the freedom of CHOOSING yes. (I am glad to see that his experiment/experience has resulted in feelings of opennes for him, though.)

  3. Sally 10.17.2011 at 8:08pm #

    I can totally relate to the need to learn to say “no”. It has taken me years, and now I realize that that too, can go too far…that sometimes it becomes a kind of unconscious reaction, rather than a choice. Sometimes the “no” that worked for one period of my life, stopped being the right answer in another… then “yes” worked better…YES to things that matter!

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