Finding the Balance: Navigating the Yes and No in Project Discussions

Filed under Communication, Leadership | Posted by MMeloni

It was almost comical to watch the debate rage on.

Ginny looked at Sal and said, “Your problem is that you think everything is possible. That anything can be done.”

Sal laughed and replied, “Well, your problem is that you think nothing can be done. Your first response to everything is no.”

Watching on the sidelines, Mary Carol began to see that both were making valid points. She also began to see that Ginny and Sal came from two very different perspectives.

When a new idea was presented to the team, Ginny immediately began to discuss why the idea was wrong or impossible, or impractical. She looked for the flaws. Sometimes those flaws were actually due to her professional preferences or weaknesses. If she did not like the idea of doing something or she did not know how to do something, then she would state that it was a bad idea. Mary Carol thought of Ginny as a ‘no person’, someone who comes from a place of negative responses.

Sal responded to new ideas by brainstorming how those new ideas could become a reality. He looked for ways to make things happen. He liked change and he liked to shake things up and he disliked the status quo. Sometimes this was a strength and other times it was a weakness. It could lead Sal to suggest change just for the sake of change. Mary Carol thought of Sal as a ‘yes person’, someone who comes from a place of positive responses.

Because Ginny tended to blurt things out in an unconstructive manner, she was often harder to listen to. Sal had a calmer and less abrasive way of making his point.

Listening to their debates was not always comfortable, or fun. Sometimes their back-and-forth devolved into unproductive arguing. Both of their opinions were important. Generally, they could be facilitated back to useful discussion.

And at the end, after the ‘no person’ had her say and the ‘yes person’ made his points, the team was usually able to come up with a working approach.

We need all types, the yes, the no, and the maybe.