When being a Yes person doesn’t work

Pirate saying Well, Yes, but actually NoI know I’ve been away from this blog far too much in the past year. Well, things have been busy, and confusing, and complicated, to say the least. I’ll leave it at that right now.

I started writing this article at the end of 2019, when things weren’t going so well. I set it aside, thinking that a few weeks of cooling down would help. It has, and yet as I went through to edit this to publish now, I find that my cooler head did prevail even in the heat of the moment.

The end of the year is always a time for reflection of what’s gone on in the past year–for better or worse. For 2019, 31 December 2019 was not only the end of the year, but also the end of a decade–the decade when I let tech comm into my life, in fact. Oh, there’s been lots of other things that have gone on, for sure. Heck, if it was a complicated year, it’s definitely been a complicated decade for me.

Something I’ve been thinking about lately is professional character–again, for better or worse. And for myself, I’ve concluded that I’m not a “Yes man” type of person.

First of all, if it isn’t obvious, I’m a woman, not a man. Despite certain gains for women in the past decade, especially in tech, there are still stigmas that are associated with being a woman. This is especially true when it comes to work-life balance and well, just how women express themselves. I’m quickly reminded of an interview done recently by Howard Stern of Hillary Clinton. While she is a generation ahead of me, I found much of what she talked about in how she handled her career and her press still rings true for women today. You can’t be emotional. You can’t bend. You have to work twice as hard as everyone else to prove yourself. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t yield to certain things. If a man reacted expressively about something, nothing would happen, but if a woman did…you get the idea. I still see that in the office. I see women still being passive, even if they think they are assertive or aggressive. I know this of myself.

I’m also reminded of the many talks of entrepreneur Tabitha Coffey who speaks about how women’s power is so often taken away from them in business, and that we shouldn’t let anyone take that away from us.

This is where I get to talk about being a “Yes” person. Now, you often hear in business–and in life–that you should try to say “yes” to more opportunities and more “yes” to life, because you’ll benefit in the long run. I understand that philosophy, and on many levels, I do try to adopt that attitude when I can.

However, there is a power to saying “no” to things as well. Again, as a woman, it’s not about life choices like, “I don’t want to date you,” or “I don’t want to have kids,”, etc. but even the small “no” in business where it takes away that “power” within us. What I mean by this is when you feel like your confidence, intelligence, and worth in business–and life–are taken away from you. When you get constant pushback when you know that something isn’t right.

I’ve discovered, in this respect, that I am a “no” person. If I’m approached to do something, I need to weigh out whether I can truly do it and do a good job at it, or not. Sometimes, I’ll take the chance or know confidently that it’s a “yes”, or even a “Yes, I’ll give it a wholehearted try”. But there are times that I feel like I know something’s wrong because it’s being done wrong or it’s being done for the wrong reasons, and I can’t just let it be.

I’m human–I know I’m not always right, but I’m often right. I try to research things as best as I can, and I’m not an inexperienced youngster either. Especially in the field of tech comm, I know that even after almost a decade of immersing myself in the field, I have a LOT to learn, but I’ve also gained SO much knowledge over the last decade. I DO know my stuff, and I speak about what I know confidently. I don’t talk about what I don’t know. And I’m willing to hear another perspective or learn about something new. That’s never changed.

I think the point I’m trying to say is that I’m not afraid to “upset the cart” if I know that things are not going right and they need to be corrected. When I encounter a situation of the old saying of “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,” then I want to make sure that I get a thirsty horse or figure out if the water is bad! I’m not going to “spin my wheels” doing something that will not end with positive results. I try to make the change happen, and when you get pushback time after time, well…it’s frustrating. If I was a guy, I could huff and puff and blow up with little consequence. But for me, if I bottle up–reserving my frustrated words, say nothing while suppressing anger, then I’m weak. And if I were to blow up like a guy–forget it. You can’t win.

I refuse to feel weak anymore. When I originally wrote this article, I was in a weak and unstable position, which I’m no longer in. I know better. I know I have support from those who do understand me and do believe in me, and appreciate when I change things because they need to be changed. They know I have viable ambitions and can asset myself appropriately. They appreciate that I don’t roll over and just “yes” to everything given to me, and I weigh things carefully before saying “no”.

I find my son has this trait too–he won’t do something unless he understands why and it makes sense to him. Perhaps this is an Aspie thing. I don’t see it as being inflexible, but rather I don’t do things simply for the sake of doing them. What I do needs to have some purpose at the some level, and some logic. If I know from experience that if a project is being approached the wrong way, and I’ve tried to reach a workable compromise or re-approach with no success, then I feel that power is taken away from me. I’m defeated and miserable doing things the wrong way. It almost feels immoral in my heart.

So, I will never be a “yes” woman. I will always try to champion the customer or end user, champion better content and UX, and champion best practices. When those aren’t in place, and a supportive, viable structure to help me achieve those things is not available, that’s not what’s best for me. I deserve better, the customers/end users that I champion deserve better, and I will continually strive for better wherever I go. I will know when “no” gives me the power to do the right thing, and push forward with that. And that will provide me with the right kind of “yes”.

Are you a “yes” person or a “no” person? Include your comments below.

About TechCommGeekMom

Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who has recently started her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, BASF North America, Merck, and Deloitte, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog, TechCommGeekMom.com, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, TCUK (ISTC) and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/daniellemvillegas, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog.
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