Just say yes to grow agreement

© Can Stock Photo / aaronamat

All day, every day, you say things that you don't mean. It's not that you are lying. It's that we all use verbal markers while we think. We say "um" or "hmmm" or we say things like "no" when we mean "I haven't thought about it like that before." Our brains move faster than our mouths, and while we are processing, we make sounds that mostly just mean "I'm processing."

Why not replace those sounds you make while you are thinking with some form of the word "yes?"

Yes is a word that means: "I am listening. I want to connect. I want to agree."  It doesn't mean I necessarily agree with what you just said. Yes is the beginning of the story, not the end. I can follow it with another step. And that step might invite you to go in a new direction. 

When I start with "yes," what you hear is a desire to connect safely. That's because your brain (not your mind) mostly processes agreement as positive. This doesn't mean your brain "trusts" (it's not a person).  It means your brain uses fewer resources to predict when it encounters agreement. The more someone seems to be like you, the safer your bets about what they are thinking and feeling and likely to do. When the brain is able to use fewer resources, you feel less tense and you have more brain resources available to process new information.

People often ask me to teach them some language that will help them make sales. Saying yes before you say anything else is the single most powerful generator of agreement. It's the best way to start to set up a pattern of agreement, or to move it from ideas to action. When a group practices using the word yes, the energy and focus in their conversations is immediately better. It is not just a little better: it's a lot better. Everyone in the room can notice the difference.

And yet, most people won't say "yes" more often after a demonstration. It's not that they can't see that it works. They can see it. It's that it is uncomfortable to think one thing and say something else. To become comfortable with saying yes, you have to practice. And while you practice, you will feel awkward. That's easy to overcome in a room where everyone else is practicing and you have a coach. It's harder to overcome on your own. 

Unfamiliar is not the same as bad. It feels bad because new patterns take more willpower (in your mind) and more neurological resources (in your brain). Learning is work. Change takes energy. That's why small changes can be powerful changes: the thing you actually do is much more powerful than the thing you understand but do not do.

So practice saying yes before you say anything else. Listen to the other person. Say yes (or yeah or uh-huh - whatever form of yes comes naturally to you) and then say what you want to say. It doesn't matter if you are not agreeing with the content of what you just heard. You are agreeing to be in the conversation and then you are suggesting a new idea or direction. 

The people you are talking to will like hearing 'yes.' To process it, they'll probably imitate it. And you'll start hearing 'yes' more often. And when you're not wasting energy on disagreement, you'll begin to transform "yes, I hear you" into "yes, I can do that." 


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