In Defense of Saying Yes

I’ve been writing about saying no lately, which is a discipline that has been kind of necessary for me to work on over the last couple of years. But before I move on to other topics I want to spend some time on the flip side, and talk briefly about the value in saying yes. I don’t think it would be fair to have this discussion without acknowledging that it’s not necessarily easy to say no, and that is true in part because many of the reasons to say yes are legitimate, valid, and compelling.

Pretty much always say yes to Cheetos

Pretty much always say yes to Cheetos

Why say yes?

Saying yes to a project or an opportunity is a basic way to build your career through developing new skills, experiences, or relationships. While you are gathering experience through your daily responsibilities on the job, you can be doubling up on your learning by working on a project outside of work too.

If someone is offering to pay you, then money most certainly can be a reason to say yes! Everyone will have a different point at which some money is enough money–figure out what yours is and it will be easier to know when to say yes or no.

Do you love to present workshops? Write blog posts? Review books? Whatever your favorite thing to do is, saying yes to extra projects gives you a chance to do more of what you find energizing and enjoyable. Or maybe a project gives you a chance to work with some great people. Saying yes to fun is a completely legit strategy.

By the same token, saying yes might mean not looking for a passion project, but instead taking a turn on the non-flashy committees that exist to help us do the essential work of our profession or our community.

Is your boss asking you to say yes and do something on behalf of your department or your library? Sometimes the reality is it is more politic to say yes than no. Or maybe your boss sees a nascent skill set in you that they’d like to help foster. Being open to saying yes in that case might send you in an exciting new direction!

One last true thing about saying yes and saying no:

One of the reasons that it’s easier lately for me to say no is because I’ve said so many yesses. I want to be really frank about that. As worn out as I let myself become, I still can’t feel a whole lot of regret about any of the projects I took on. I think they were pretty much all awesome opportunities and while perhaps they would have felt better spreading out over ten years instead of 5 or so, I can’t point to anything and say, “That’s the one thing I shouldn’t have done.” I’m grateful for all of it. So I am not feeling such an overwhelming urge to do all the things in part because I’ve already done many of them! Now that I have, I have a better sense of what projects suit me best and which are the most exciting to me, and perhaps even through which ones I can help make the most difference going forward.

That’s a pretty good result of saying yes.

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4 Responses to In Defense of Saying Yes

  1. Bryce says:

    I know I’ve said this before, but your self-reflection and candidness is so appreciated. While some years shape up to be beefier commitment-wise than others, I feel like those yeses have gotten me more jazzed about my day job and propelled me to do better work! It’s important to be able to draw mental/emotional/time boundaries, but it’s hard to know where those boundaries are unless you spend a little time with both feet in the water. This series has been thought-provoking, and I (and I’m sure many other librarians who idolize you– I mean, respect and admire you:)) am thankful for it.

  2. Melissa says:

    Thanks Bryce, so much. I know there’s so much more to say and I always feel I could be thinking more deeply and making better connections as I write, so it’s gratifying to hear that what I do get posted is helpful! I love how you said it better than I did…there is something to be said for putting both feet in the water as a way to learn what depth feels good. XO

  3. Elizabeth Timmins says:

    Saying “yes” can be very empowering and can open you up to opportunities that you didn’t even know existed! I am finding that a tactic that is working for me is to ” say yes” to several small manageable “bites” rather than something extremely large. For example, in the past I would agree to teach a class on a topic whereas now I am willing to do an hour lecture on a topic. Or I would commit myself to a week long activity whereas now a day or two will do for me to stay energized and engaged (as you have described) and for me to walk away happy and satisfied rather than depleted and resentful! I am not saying this is in any way easy or that I don’t stumble. But practice has sure made this easier and gratefully I have very few regrets. It is so true that the only one who can take care of you IS you.

  4. Melissa says:

    Elizabeth, I love this addition! Saying yes to a part rather than a whole is an excellent strategy and a graceful way to offer as much of a win-win solution as possible. Thank you!

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