When To Say No

Tuesday, October 19th, 2004 | Uncategorized

When is saying no appropriate?

There are 2 “rules” that have played a big part in my life:

always say yes to a dance

always say yes when someone asks you for help

These are GOOD rules. I’ve seen what they do to a culture, and it is amazing. However, I am a pragmatist, and every rule has a context where it applies as well as a context where it is inappropriate. When should you say no?


In Dancing

Throughout the world, swing etiquette is to always say yes when someone asks you to dance unless you have a good reason not to. new balance 696 If you say no to one person, it is extremely bad form to say yes to someone else.

Because of this, dancing swing is some kind of bizarro version of regular club dancing. New Balance Sale Not everyone at a swing venue is there to get drunk and hook up, sometimes no one is. People are smiling, talking, gossiping, and laughing, not to mention, dancing.

Stepping into a swing club “everone knows your name”, and that is because people say “yes”. Going to a new city, I can go to any venue and have a good night of dancing, meeting tons of new people in a safe 1-on-1 environment.

The fear of rejection that so permeates our culture, paralyzing guys who want to ask “that girl” out. The coldness that most girls feel they need to use to defend themselves from an unending flood of guys who just want to get in their pants. The whole clubland cycle of shit. nike internationalist Goes. oakley homme pas cher At a swing venue, the answer is always yes…at least, as long as the question is a dance.


At Work

One of the simplest and most important lessons that I’ve ever learned from a book is to always say yes when someone asks for help. New Balance Outlet UK ThePragmaticProgramer taught me this a year after I got out of college. I have seen this simple rule transform corporations.

*”What do I have to do to make you and me, become an us”?*

When you strip it down, this is what I do at work. This is what I rake in the big bucks, what I get flown, dined, and recommended for. asics shoes sale uk This is why I can afford to take year long vacations. I transform groups of individuals into teams. Or more correctly, I help a group of people transform themselves into a team.

It’s not ‘my’ problem, and ‘your’ assignment, and ‘his’ use case, and ‘their’ story. And it had better not be ‘his’ fault. Language is important. A team that uses this language is not a team, it’s a group of individuals pulling in different directions, redoing eachothers work when they are not undoing it, or putting cracks in it. It is wasteful, inefficient, and a terrible environment to work in, once you’ve seen the alternative.

This cover your ass mentality is what I struggle against. At the end of the day ExtremeProgramming is just a vehicle to get a team to gel. A team where everyone is team-oriented instead of self-oriented. Where everyone is pulling in the same direction. Where people will drop their own lines to help the people on the team that are pulling what is most important for the team. It is so much more fun, so much more efficient. What good is it if I succeed in my assignment if the team fails?

And again, the way this happens is by saying yes. When I say yes when someone asks me where the !CompanyThomlet is, or how to make a web service, or why this test is failing, when I go out of my way to be generous with my time, people respond.

By positively reinforcing their asking for my time, a cycle starts that continues with them being generous with their time. Not only do I always say yes, but I assume others will as well, and when you see someone that you respect (hopefully me) constantly asking unabashedly for other people’s time and giving of his own, it starts to sink in that maybe this is okay to do.

And after a while you get a team where people aren’t afraid to show their ignorance. Where my solution becomes your solution as well, where your failure is the team’s failure and the team’s responsibility to pick up. Where your story is equally important as my story, and I’m not worried about “getting in trouble” for taking time out of one part of the team’s deliverables to jump start another part.


But it doesn’t always work

In Dancing

Sometimes you’re not feeling it. jordan super.fly 2 The worst thing is to dance with someone who doesn’t want to dance with you. It would be much better to get the no, than to dance with someone who obviously doesn’t want to be there, not looking at you, frowning. nike air max 90 homme Fuck that. I don’t want to be that person to someone else.

And sometimes I can’t help it. I want to want to dance with everyone, I want to “love what I do” as opposed to only “doing what I love”. nike homme I think. But sometimes I can’t. Sometimes it’s the end of an exchange, and I’m not going to see my three favorite follows for a year and I just want to dance with them the entire time. It’s selfish. I’ll hate myself for it tomorrow, but right now…

Is that wrong? What is the line between being selfish, and being healthy in looking after your own concerns first???

At Work

I asked my last team for feedback before I rolled off, and a couple of them mentioned I was easily distracted. Saying ‘yes’ to one person often means saying ‘no’ to another. Often it is not ‘my time’ that I’m being generous with.

If I’m pairing the entire day, then what do I do when one of my friends IM’s me to ask me a question that will take half a minute to answer, and what do I do when that half minute turns into an hour. Helping someone means ditching my pair, and what happens when 4 hours of each of my days is spent jumping around? And if the answer is to not actually have a pair, then what happens when I’m helping one person and in the middle of that, someone else asks me a question, and in the middle of that…???



So obviously this post doesn’t explain when to say no. adidas tubular shadow Instead, I’m asking y’all.

3 Comments to When To Say No

October 19, 2004

I think the obvious answer is often just using “yes, but later”. Rather than let someone dump monkeys on your back RIGHT NOW, schedule in some time to sit down with them at some later point.

This has the added advantage of said person solving his problems on their own before you even get involved.

Usually, I will help someone if they’ve actually put it an effort to understand the problem and has a few ideas for solving it, rather than coming to me on a knee-jerk basic when something goes wrong.

October 19, 2004

Hey Jeremy, I am 100% with you on this sentiment. A couple weeks ago I met Thomas Power )(of ecademy) in Hong Kong and he had a lot to say about “selflessness” as a strategy for success in networking and in life. It’s been part of my strategy and “personal brand” for a long time. BTW, I agree that I can’t stand those dance hall snobs that say “yes” and then make it as miserable dance as possible by looking away, acting bored…
[comment by Joy]
It is okay to say “no” when saying yes means breaking a boundary that you have set for yourself. These differ with every person and in every situation. Boundaries can be physical, emotional or spiritual in nature.

Ex: If I’m at a dance and I’m just hanging out then I will say no to a dance. If I’m tired and need to sit out a song I’ll say no to a dance. If I really want to dance with my favorite lead I’ll ask the person who just asked me to wait for another song while I dance with this other person.

Ex: If I’m at work trying to get a project done, I may say no to friends that call or IM, or other requests since they would interfere with the project I need to get done.

Ex: If a friend needs me to do something for them, I will most likely try to do it, but if it means getting little/no sleep which will then interfere with the rest of my day/week I may have to say no. If I am dealing with a family crisis I may have to say no because I can’t deal with any more emotional strain, even though I really care for my friend – I may have to direct them to someone else.

There are a thousand examples. And I am horrible at saying “no,” but I’m learning that it is important to know when and how to use that two letter word.

October 19, 2004

Well Jerm i guess an answer might be to prioritize. Think ” can i afford (can the team afford) for me to say “yes” at this time. IF it/you really can but you don’t want to, then you should say yes anyway, however you will have to say no eventually. It’s like The Seven Habits say, pick your “big rocks” for the week/day/hour and get them out of the way or “put them in the bucket, because its easier to fit in the little rocks after the big rocks are in than it is to try and jam in big rocks after all the little ones are”. ^_- I hope you can follow that better than i did lol.


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