The Power of ‘Yes’: Say it Often

Yes

Following is my latest column in PRSSA’s online magazine, FORUM.

When Forum Editor Krista Watson asked me to write about the power of “yes,” I instantly recalled a conversation a couple of years ago with two over-worked agency interns.

The first intern looked and sounded depressed, questioning her career decision. The other breathless intern said she never worked harder in her life, but the experience confirmed her passion for public relations. Probing further, I learned that the non-stop demands of a big agency internship stifled the first intern’s social life with friends who had “normal” 9-to-5 jobs. She felt some guilt but didn’t refrain from routinely excusing herself from after-hours projects, while the other intern seldom left the office without volunteering to help others. Nine times out of 10, her peers and supervisors told her everything was under control. But occasionally, she was asked to assist with both boring and interesting chores. Within a few weeks she became the “turn-to” junior staffer.

Fast forward three months. When a full-time account coordinator position opened, guess who landed it? The “say yes” intern’s PR career was officially launched, and the other intern’s agency assignment ended abruptly.

Supporting the theory you get a lot more done and can advance your career through positive thinking, here are five tips to keep in mind when faced with your next yes or no decision:

  1. Yes-focused individuals possess can-do attitudes that are noticed by others, including bosses.
  2. Yes opens doors to opportunities that broaden your experiences and expand your capabilities.
  3. Yes helps you overcome insecurity and fear of new challenges. It demonstrates that you’re willing to tackle bigger assignments. And others will help you succeed if you simply acknowledge that you might need some guidance.
  4. Even if you think an idea is loony, try to avoid the knee-jerk no. Recognize something positive in all ideas as you work the discussion towards a better approach.
  5. Yes—And. . . is quite powerful. It promises to build on the positive. Second City friends Tom Yorton and Kelly Leonard wrote an excellent book about the use of Yes, And in improvisational comedy and how those two words improve creativity and collaboration in business. Yes—And builds even more positive energy behind your intent to do a great job.

Most of the great business leaders rose to the top of their careers by embracing “yes.” Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google’s parent Alphabet, Inc., nails the importance of yes when he says: “Even if it’s a bit edgy, a bit out of your comfort zone, saying yes means you will do something new, meet someone new and make a difference in your life, and likely in others’ lives as well. … Yes is a tiny word that can do big things. Say it often.”

By the way, the first intern that started this story eventually became a telemarketer before moving onto three other lateral jobs in two years. Meanwhile, the yes-focused intern has been promoted twice and now is a highly regarded account executive.

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