Should Saying "No" More Be Your Resolution?

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As the new year approaches, I've been thinking about the resolutions I should make — although I've already resolved to spend less time online, especially on email. So I was in a bind when I got an email from a stranger the other day, with the header, "Should 'No' Be Your New Year's Resolution?" It presented quite a predicament: Should I learn about a possible new resolution, or break my most important one before 2011 had even begun? I had another couple weeks to get serious, so I opened the puppy. It was from Jim Camp, negotiation coach and author of NO: The Only Negotiating Strategy You Need for Work and Home. He thinks single women are particularly and problematically prone to saying "Yes" to everything anyone asks of them, or offers to them, and he wanted to know if I cared to hear more.

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Yes! I thought.

Clearly, I have a problem when it comes to saying yes, particularly when an employer is making me an offer — or when I've just started dating someone. (In a job situation, I'll say yes because I feel like I don't have any other options — I assume that if a boss had more money to give, she'd offer it to me, or if she thought I was doing a good job, she'd pro-actively reward me for it. In my personal life, I say "yes" because I want to make people happy by giving them what they want.) Anyway, Camp and I emailed about this yessing-ourselves-to-death business.

Why is being a yes-woman a bad thing?

"Saying yes before you negotiate betrays a fear of not being liked by the other person," Camp says. "When you start out with 'yes,' you're primed to please the other side, and to compromise early and often." In other words, you set yourself up for powerlessness.

Why are single women in particular prone to being yes-people?

Camp says that, in his experience, women are afraid of seeming "bitchy" or aggressive. They want to be liked. More than men, they've been taught that they should be agreeable and "nice." Single women are worried that if they say "maybe," or try to negotiate in some way, whatever offer is on the table — a date, for instance — will collapse or be withdrawn immediately. In reality, says Camp, plenty of people will take even a hard "no" as an invitation to negotiate.

Why is saying 'no' a better option than we think it is?

"Saying 'no' gives you a chance to understand what your options are," Camp says.

Is there a middle ground in between "yes" and "no"?

Consider telling the person who's asking you to do something that you have a different idea, says Camp. So, if a guy from the office asks you if you want to go to dinner, consider saying, "You know, I've been wanting to ice skate — should we do that instead?" Simply by proposing a different possibility, rather than immediately accepting what's offered, he will regard you with more respect. You'll have more power.

Which kind of dating propositions should a woman always say "no" to?

"There's no hard-and-fast rule," says Camp. "But here's a general guideline: If you are feeling pressured, manipulated, or tricked in any way, listen to those feelings. Don't act in the moment. In any negotiation, when the other party's proposal triggers an emotional response in you — like fear, neediness, or excitement — they have the advantage, which means you are not going to make a decision based on rationality, but rather on emotions. Make a decision only once you've regained emotional neutrality. So, if he wants to go further and faster, intimately, consider saying no, calmly. Try to empty your mind of emotions. Then ask if you can talk about things further. If he agrees to discuss it, you lose nothing and gain respect. If he refuses, then you have learned something important about the man you are dating, and you can simply walk away.

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