How to Counter the World of “No”

Many would agree that “yes” is one of the most concise motivational words in the English language. And in the workplace, that’s no exception. You may find that this simple word can encourage job satisfaction and employee loyalty. Saying “yes” to a small idea may ultimately turn that idea into a business game changer.

That said, the word has been somewhat elusive in the office of late. In the 2017 American Express OPEN ‘Get Business Done’ survey, more than 3 in every 10 workers (31 percent) believe their ideas are shut down too quickly in the office. And more than half (52 percent) of those surveyed agree with the statement, “Our internal office culture creates a lot of barriers to executing good ideas.”

So why the disconnect? Why is it so easy to immediately default to “no” in the office? I recently shared my thoughts on this in an article for American Express OPEN Forum.

Simply stated, shutting down ideas is the path of least resistance. It’s less work to shoot down an idea and maintain the status quo, keeping things predictable and manageable.

Of course, not everything deserves a “yes” in the office, but when it comes to how we react to new ideas, there’s certainly much room for improvement.

10 Ways to Get to “Yes”

Here are 10 ways you can encourage better idea sharing for a happier and more productive workplace.

  1. Practice positive body language. You’ll encourage more openness and free-flowing thinking by making strong eye contact, nodding, smiling and leaning forward during your discussions.
  2. Actively listen. Everyone wants to feel they have a voice. Mirror back what you heard the person say, in your own words.
  3. Examine your roadblocks. Is convenience or fear keeping you from being open to new approaches?
  4. Catch yourself saying “no.” Take notice when ideas are easily shut down by you or others.
  5. Ask for more. Ideas may not be articulated perfectly at first, so you may need to dig further to give them their best shot.
  6. Look for positive angles. While the new idea may not be applicable or usable in its earliest, unpolished form, try to glean value or reason behind the idea.
  7. Make “yes” your knee-jerk reaction. For example, if an employee says, “I think we could get IT to develop software for that,” you can respond, “Yes, I like that idea. How do you see it working?”
  8. Offer genuine praise. It often takes a leap of faith for any employee to propose a new idea in the first place, and for that alone they deserve credit.
  9. Show appreciation. Thank your team members individually when they share helpful suggestions.
  10. Explain next steps. Even if the concept needs more work, give them specific feedback and let them know what your mutual next steps will be, if applicable.

For more information, read How to Counter the World of “No” and Open a Floodgate of Ideas.