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 Award-winning business author and broadcaster

Leadership trainer and coach

Keynote speaker

  • Writer's pictureAudrey Tang

I'll have what she's having: When to say "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

Many people write a lot about saying “no” – I thought I would turn that on its head and talk instead about when to say “Yes” – you can then read my tips on saying no here.

We say “yes” for many reasons – the most compelling is that we want to do it. However, there are also other good reasons to agree to something that we aren’t sure about:

  • For the experience

  • For the perceived benefit

  • For the money

  • For “sh*ts and giggles

There are even times when – if we want to do something - we’ll pay for it:

  • Taking a class

  • Joining a group/society/club

  • Watching entertainment

  • A meal out with specific people

...and if you don't even have to think about it - then saying "Yes" will always be the right thing (particularly in the case that someone has asked you to marry them).

In fact, as long as you don’t come away thinking “why did I do that” – then by all means, carry on! I've personally quite enjoyed everything I've said "yes" to, but over the years I've learned a lot about when I say Yes, and that's what advises the rest of this article.

IF AT ANY POINT you at any point question – “why am I doing this again” – it’s time to stop and reconsider your reasons for being there and the following are not healthy ones:

  • I was afraid of being left out

  • I wanted to keep the peace/keep x happy

  • I didn’t know how to say no

  • It was easier to say yes

  • I would have been mocked/rejected otherwise*

*There is an asterisk on this one because only you can truly place the value on how much acceptance means to you from a place that might “Mock you otherwise”… If it’s worth it, it’s worth it. I personally tend to prefer the clubs who not only let me in, but love me being there.

So in the first instance:

Say YES if:

You WANT to do it

But if you do not, then consider

  • What is it worth to you?

Working out the value of an offer depends on your perception of the value you place on yourself – calculate both carefully.

When is “the experience” worth it?

In building my profile as a consultant and in the media, I have done a lot of work for free or at a very low rate. Much of this was to get the “foot in the door” in the hope of being invited back. I am very grateful to say that this has paid off and continues to do so, so yes, I have under-quoted and over-delivered to start.

However, I do still get enquiries from people asking me to “work for free”. Some of these are companies (with whom I was familiar and who could afford to pay, but appeared to be choosing not to at least in the first instance.) I said “no” to one; and to another I asked how to make the offer a little more “Quid pro quo”. I may not hear from either again – this is no loss.

I felt a twinge of hesitation before responding, but after doing so I knew I had claimed my personal power. Further I knew that I had shown respect to those of my clients who pay me my full rate - and more.

In short:

If you ever feel a question mark, the truth is, “No” will be the right answer…however if you need that extra push, then ask yourself:

  • What will I benefit from saying “yes” and what will it cost?

  • Is that person/thing worth an imbalance – and if so why?

  • Will I regret doing it, even if I enjoy moments of it at the time (because of the cost to my time/energy and so on?)

I cannot tell you when it is right for you to say yes or no, but I have also learned to listen more to my gut.

A “Secret” tip (hearing the gut)

In my book “The Leader’s Guide to Mindfulness” I encouraged readers to be aware of where they felt emotions. When I am certain of something (often regardless of outcome) – I feel it in my head. You may feel it somewhere else, so reflect on this. Where do you feel it, when you are certain? Head? Heart? Gut? Chest? Back?

When I am unsure I feel it in my gut, when I am stressed I feel it in my back/trapezium. Even if I think I am ok, if I recognise those sensations, I know that there is something I am uneasy about.

Therefore, in the same way that I know if I am simply putting things in my online basket I probably don’t want them in contrast to going to the checkout at once, if I feel a twinge in my gut when I ask “do I want to do this” (even before looking at the money sometimes!) – I am most likely to say No.

Remember, though, relationships are key to saying "Yes" to most collaborations

I still do work for free – sometimes I even offer to (when I want to do something) – but the overriding reason for saying yes, is simply (not that I do it “for experience” or to “build my profile” – even if it helps) I like who I am working with.

Never underestimate the power of relationships – and never undercut their value either.

i) I will always try and give back to those who have helped me in the past by helping them (this is, to me, not effort, but a chance to say “thank you”).

ii) I will always jump at the opportunity of spending time with people or getting involved with projects I am energised by.

And if you are doing the asking: Sometimes all you have to offer is YOU

Most of what I like to do takes other people. I cannot be a producer without something to produce; there is literally no “I” in team, and the “me” is incomplete; some of my projects need people equally skilled in their area of expertise as I am in mine – my shows, for example, take lighting, sound, videography, actors, musicians. …and in all of this I often have little to offer but myself. My money goes into setting up the event so people don’t need to be out of pocket themselves, but there’s no extra to pay for someone’s time. As such I’ve learned, as much as you can:

  • Make the environment desirable

  • Make the outcome exceptional

  • And always ALWAYS show appreciation

With all the titles and authority in the world – you cannot be a leader if you have no followers.

Those I “follow” less and less, seem to offer something that has one of those three key factors missing…

So – I cannot tell you when to say yes or no, and every situation will be different. What I will ask you to do when decising whether to take on a task is:

  1. Listen to your body – know when you think “this is right”

  2. If you have reservations – see if you can clear them up by asking (I might ask “What is your budget?” if I am requested to work for people with whom I haven’t had the most fun experience in the past) If you cannot, reflect on why.

  3. If you say no and do not feel empowered – then again reflect on why this may be the case. What is it you are worried about? That they won’t ask you anymore?

...and with regards to point 3, doesn't that give you time to devote to people who ARE worth your answer in the affirmative?

So finally – if you don’t want to be put in the position of saying “no” – then take the role of instigator. As an instigator, you’ll be so busy you’ll be able to refuse unwanted requests with good reason. I like this approach because rather than “cut people off” – you do MORE for people instead. It’s a funny truism that rather than thinking about removal, restriction or “spring cleaning”, if you instead focus on doing more of what you like, seeing more of who you like – and as an instigator – why wait to be asked(!?) – you’ll have far less time for anything else that doesn’t give you that sense of “Yes Yes Yes!”

Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience For quick tips and tools: click for SKILL PILL and Q&A videos and here for Media appearances. Twitter/IG @draudreyt


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