The Power of ‘Yes’: Say it Often


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.


2 thoughts on “The Power of ‘Yes’: Say it Often

  1. Hi!

    My name is Lauren and I am currently a senior at Southeast Missouri State University. I relate to this article so much, and found it extremely insightful. Saying ‘yes’ doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Several times in my life I’ve heard from others, “why didn’t you say no?” During interviews when asked, “what is your greatest weakness?” I found myself to be answering, ‘I can’t say no to people, although I find that it helps me manage my time so I can complete all tasks’, which leads me to stressful situations with a lot of tasks on my plate. My questions is, how do I succeed with these tasks I said yes to, in a timely manner and while keeping a calm appearance?

    1. Great interview answer, Lauren. It demonstrates that you’re going to be a hard worker. To control all the work you’ve agreed to handle, let your manager know that you are excited about each and every project on your “To Do” list, but could he/she help you prioritize what should be done first. This positive plea for help usually results in a realistic assignment of tasks. In some cases, the boss doesn’t even know about some of the assignments on your plate so it is a good way to keep him/her informed about all that you are doing.

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