So make up your mind already…

Every day we make, more or less voluntarily, an incredible number of decisions, from the absolutely trivial to the essential, and sometimes, among all the pluses and minuses, gains and losses, it sometimes flashes through our heads if we are honestly making decisions according to our hearts and minds, following our inner compass and voice, or if we are a victim of a manipulative environment. Balancing all your ‘yeses’ and ‘nos’, so as not to harm yourself or others is sometimes a roller-coaster ride, but at the same time a manageable skill that brings balance and enrichment to your private and professional life.

Yes, no, maybe…
Yes means new beginnings, no symbolizes the end and refusal of permission. Yes welcomes, no closes, yes cooperates, no rejects, yes is consent, yes confirms, no rejects, but yes also often complicates rather than simplifies – our own plans, relationships, and possibilities.

How we make decisions about our wants, desires, and needs (whether we say yes, no, or maybe to ourselves and others) largely depends on our decision-making strategies and style. The following options influence us throughout the carousel.

  • Impulsiveness: we go with the first spontaneous option that comes to mind and are glad to have the decision-making process over with.
  • Conformity and compliance: we make the decision that is popular or most pleasing to others.
  • Delegation: we prefer when someone else decides for us, we leave this activity to others with a sense of joy and relief.
  • Avoidance: we postpone the decision as far as possible, we get rid of the responsibility for this difficult step.
  • Balance: we compare the advantages and disadvantages, we work with the given quality and quantity of information for the best possible option.
  • Ranking of values, (self)reflection: we consider the circumstances, the context, the influence on others, how much energy we devoted to it (even the decision itself).

Simply no
Saying no more often doesn’t mean being negative all the time. On the contrary, it is about creating a healthier space and opportunity to agree with what we ourselves want, and what we really agree with. Saying no to people and their wishes, situations and circumstances calmly, without feeling guilty, apologizing, explaining and justifying yourself is possible (and can be learned). It is enough to start, for example, at the most recent request made in our direction. A day has 24 hours for each of us. So obviously we can’t be everything to everyone in our lives. If we always agree with everyone, and always nod and fulfill every request, in the end we will be the ones left stressed and dissatisfied.

  • Give up the feeling of guilt: at a younger age we automate the technique of guilt when we do something wrong. This continues into adulthood, especially in situations where we don’t do or fulfill something we think is good for others, when someone wants something from us. Then, the carousel of self-blame spins in the form of, “I should have said yes”, “I should have offered”, “I should have agreed”, “I should have done it”. Our to-do list grows and only increases our stress levels. However, we can productively reframe the situation as “it seems I just didn’t want to agree.”
  • We often do not express our disagreement for fear that everything will get complicated, and we will be perceived by those around us as troublemakers. That’s why we come up with more or with less creative and believable excuses that should explain our decision, or we just delay a clear solution in the form of a vague, “I’ll think about it some more or I have to see if I already have something at that time.” More direct and fair to ourselves and to the person asking is, for example, giving a clear answer – “thank you for the invitation, but it won’t work for me at this time, I already have other commitments at the time, it’s nice of you to think of me, I can’t help you with this and I hope you manage to find another solution.”
  • See yourself as a person who also has wishes. Saying no is a form of self-care: if the constant demands of others are directed in our direction, the one left in the end is ourselves, simply because we run out of energy. Putting yourself first sometimes is “healthy selfishness” and even a survival tactic (putting on the oxygen mask yourself first, then help others). For example, situations where the neighbors need you to take care of their dog for a week. It doesn’t quite suit you, but you agree within the context of so-called “good neighborly relations”. Every time you take the walk, you start a spiral of blaming yourself, your neighbor, and the dog. Why do they always ask me, don’t they have anyone in the family? Why doesn’t he ask the people next door? I think they are just using me…. This often happens because people are used to us often, or even always, agreeing to their requests. They basically rely on the certainty of a positive response. Over-adapting to others and circumstances comes from childhood, when we wanted to satisfy our parents, we sought their confirmation. However, in adulthood we do not have established personal boundaries, often only in the irrational fear of being left without friends, or of angering others by rejection.
  • Susan Newman, author of The No Book, offers some tips on how to bring more polite and productive negation into your life. During the week, make notes of when you agreed to a request, and at the same time reflect on your immediate reaction. Were you angry or anxious for agreeing? Did you feel nervous, guilty, uncomfortable? Is it still the same person and their repeated requests (relative, colleague, friend)? What would have to happen for this person to stop asking you and turn to someone else? Maybe you’re just avoiding direct confrontation. At the beginning, it seems easier to simply fulfill the request, to help, than to actively solve the wider context. But perhaps it is time to think about yourself. Talk about how you feel, what capacity you have, time options. A build-up of anger can explode at the least convenient moment.

Say yes
Sometimes you just need the absolutely indomitable courage to agree, and the right things will start to happen. American author and actress Tina Fey often mentions her optimistic attitude in life, that she says yes to things, and only then decides how she will handle everything, and how everything will turn out. Perhaps this spontaneous approach is ultimately advantageous. Author Danny Wallace gave up on all the joys of life after his girlfriend left him. The solution seemed to be to pack everything up, sort of go into hibernation, and hope that this storm would pass, resolve itself, and time would heal. A major epiphany occurred on a London bus ride when a random fellow passenger heard his depressing story and didn’t hesitate to offer his advice. “Just say yes more often. People without passion are the ones who say no to everything, but the happiest people understand that good things happen when we allow them to happen, and they happen if we start saying yes.” This conversation turned out to be an authorial epiphany, and resulted in the publication of the book “Yes Man”, which served as inspiration for the film of the same name starring Jim Carrey. As the name suggests, when the response to stimuli and challenges was positive, things started to happen. Saying yes means making an active decision and taking responsibility for your life, and to start even before any plan is formulated (being spontaneous). Every time we take a step forward, we gain more information about how to proceed further.
Seth Godin likens this process to participating in a quiz game where we hit the button for the answer before (not at the absolute exact moment) we realize the correct answer. And in the moment between the pressing of the button, and the moment of speaking, there will be that ideal point when the exact answer will appear. Maybe it seems a bit overconfident. But in the given situation, the penalty for a wrong answer is a much smaller risk than the possible profit. Metaphorically speaking, the point is that in life we ​​don’t constantly wait until we have everything absolutely ready, approved, and risks managed. Even if we do, we can try a little experiment with ourselves. For a period of time, say yes, accept offers, agree, go with the flow, plans and suggestions of others. Act spontaneously, with passion and desire. Follow what your intuition tells you, where to go, what to do, who to be with, what interests you, what makes your heart flutter. It’s not about a plan where we see each other in five years, but about conscious daily decisions, here and now.

The article was originally published in the magazine My Psychology, July, 2022.

Related Articles

UNYP Chronicle Newsletter

The e-mail address you provide will be used only to send you the newsletter. Your privacy is important to us.

For more information download our UNYP Brochure.

UNYP logo


University of New York in Prague
Londýnská 41, 120 00 Praha

ID no: 25676598
Phone: +420 224 221 261   Skype

Back to top