Say Yes A Lot

Reading Time:  4 minutes

Him: “Hey Dad - can I jump off the roof?”
Me: “Yes, yes you can.”

Wait, what?

I know what you’re thinking - that’s not the best parenting in the world. (Note: I have never claimed to be the best parent in the world. Just sayin’.)

Jumping off the roof is many things: dangerous, irresponsible, silly, daring, invigorating, brave, stupid, confusing. Out of context, it makes zero sense to answer my kid’s question with a yes. So let’s back up for a minute.

Our house has two roofs - one on the first floor (about ten feet off the ground) and one on the second floor, probably twenty feet high (I’m really good at math). Jumping down ten feet is fairly safe, until realizing the requestor is my six year old son. He would likely survive but could easily be injured. A jump from twenty feet off the ground is something I wouldn’t even attempt, and certainly would not want to see my son jumping from that height. 

Why are we talking about roof jumping? 

I told my son yes - on purpose. Because the reality is, he CAN jump off the roof. Either roof. Ten feet or twenty feet. He CAN sneak out of his window onto the roof and take a flying leap. He is a curious and daring young boy. Whether I want him to do those things is a different matter altogether, but he is capable to jump off our roof.

I told my son yes because I want him to understand that he will be making choices every single day of his life. He is in control of his actions and will learn to own the ramifications of those choices (good or bad). 

So can he jump off the roof? Yes. Is it a good choice? No.

I told him exactly that. “Yes you can, but I don’t think it’s a very good choice. You could get hurt and I’ll be sad if you get hurt…”

I once heard a wise man say that consistently telling your kids “no” creates a tension and conflict in your relationship with them, but telling them “yes” on the regular empowers them, encourages conversation, and spurs on regular dialogue and questions.

I’m not here to get into a parenting debate, but here’s what I’ve learned in putting that method into practice: saying “yes” is better than saying “no.”

Think about all the times throughout the day when you say the words yes or no. For me, it’s pretty often. When someone calls out your name from down the hall, how do you respond? Consider how often we use words like “yeah” or “what?” or “uh huh” or even “yep.” Run through those same conversations in your mind and replace those words with “yes.” It’s a small, subtle difference but it changes the tone of your communication. 

Yes does a lot. I think it carries meaning beyond what give it credit for. The word yes:

  • Affirms the other person
  • Says “I’m with you”
  • Is short and crisp
  • Is positive
  • Gives the conversation momentum
  • Positions you in a place of authority
  • Keeps the conversation going

None of those other words do these things. Yes is powerful. Yes is strong.

Yes.

Push yourself to use the word “yes” more often. 

Start small. I started using the word “yes” with my kids, and once I got into the habit, it spilled over into my everyday speech. If you have kids, try it. When they say your name or ask a question, always start your response with a “yes.” It’s pretty powerful.

Do This:

  1. Choose one area of your life and commit to changing the way you respond verbally. It could be at work (that’s a tough one, but if you want a gold star, bravo), at home, with your kids, or at the coffee shop. Select a place that you go regularly, and visualize how and when you can use the word “yes” in that place. Then go there. Do it for two weeks in a row. Say yes. See what happens.
  2. Once you’ve accomplished the first challenge, make a list of all the other places you go on a consistent basis. Put the places in order from easiest to the hardest to incorporate “yes,” and invest the time to change the way you talk in those places. Check them off your list when you get through two consecutive weeks of saying “yes.” Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not perfect - it’s not about being flawless, but about practice and consistency.

Win the room,
Jason