CHAPTER 4

When to say ‘YES’ and when to say ‘NO’

‘Yes and no, used properly, are our ultimate control mechanisms in a social world.’

There is an unfortunate paradox at the heart of how human beings use the words yes and no.

If I ask you to do something for me, then if I get anything other than a wholehearted ‘yes’, I had better treat it as a ‘no’. If I don’t, then I am setting myself up for disappointment. Somewhere along the line, you may forget my request, or put it to the back of the queue. Before I know it, any deadlines will be fast approaching, and you will be nowhere to be found. I’ll get stressed and, when I remind you of your promise, so will you. Unless, of course, we get into an argument about whether or not you ever made a promise ...

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