We’ve totally overdone it on empowering people to say “no”. I’m bringing back “yes’ in a big way.
Think back to the last time you had a meeting or went to someone’s home and were offered something to eat or drink. What did you say? I put money on it that you said no. Ok, you said “no thank you” because we’re all polite here. Now, think back to the last time you offered a guest something. What did they say? I bet they said no.
I noticed this on my last work trip. My days were filled with various meetings all over New York City, mostly at offices. Each meeting started out the same way – an offer for coffee or other drink. On the first day, when I was greeted with “can I get you anything?” I reflexively responded with a polite decline. The next day, I decided to do an experiment. I was going to say yes for the rest of the trip. I arrived at the next appointment and the secretary showed me to a conference room where I waited for the person I was meeting. He arrived and as if I had scripted it, asked me if I would like some coffee. I SAID YES. Here’s what happened – we left that large, cold, formal conference room and walked to the kitchen together. Through the exchange of making coffee, we launched into comfortable conversation about work, family, the upcoming holidays – information that would not have been disclosed if we had begun our meeting in that conference room. I continued to say yes for the rest of the trip and am confident that I formed better relationships than I would have otherwise because of the exchange of food or drink.
If I am the one offering – SAY YES, PLEASE!
The human experience is rooted in taking care of each other. It’s as if we are hard-wired to offer our guests something the minute they step into our home. When I offer you something, I mean it. I’m not just saying it to be polite or pretend I care. I want you to say yes! I’m offering you food or drink because it creates something for us to share. It creates common ground on which we can build a relationship and cultivate understanding and respect. You are not putting me out – you are helping me make your time in my home less transactional.
I think back to the memories I have of my grandparents. So many of these were made sitting at a table sharing food. It made my grandfather so happy if you would let him feed you and now I see that in myself. If you stopped by his house, he would find anything to give you. Snacks, fruit salad left over from dinner the night before, cocktail hot dogs, and I kid you not, one time he sent me a box of SPAM to my dorm in college. When we traveled to see my grandmother, the first place we reported was the kitchen table where she had already laid out a spread of her Hungarian bakery. And it was at that table that we would tell her about school, fill her in on how much we had grown, and catch up on the time that had passed since the last visit. It’s no wonder that the kitchen is the hub of every home.
If you are the one offering – I WILL SAY YES!
Saying yes is an exercise in allowing someone to help and take care of us. These are simple gestures, but it seems to me that part of the reason we say no is because we have become so resistant to help and care of any kind.
If you offer, I will say yes because graciously receiving is just as important as giving.
If you offer, I will say yes because it honors your good intentions and allows you the opportunity to show kindness through your gestures.
Make a tiny resolution on the first day of this month to start saying yes and see what happens. There are relationships to be gained and memories to be made.
In the words of one of our favorite books, The Elephant and the Bad Baby, by Elfrida Vipont, “When the Bad Baby’s mummy saw them, she said, “Have you come for tea?” and they all said, “Yes, please!”