A field guide to ‘yes’s that are really ‘no’s:
“I’ll pencil you in” (then don’t confirm)
“Looks like a good plan – agreed” (then ignore it)
“I’ll come back to you” (and then don’t)
“I’ll be there” (cancel at the last minute)
“By next Tuesday? Sure” (knowing it’ll be days after that, if at all)
“We really must get together. I’ll call you.” (don’t call)
Stay silent (delete the email, or let it languish in your inbox)
“Why don’t you send me some dates?” (knowing there will be none)
The last minute excuse: “It was almost ready and then something urgent came up”
At the moment you say it, you may think that you actually mean yes. But check how it feels. The flatness or tight knot in your belly will show you your insincerity better than anything else.
Dressing up a no as a yes is a skilful way of avoiding the shame that can come when you say what you really want. Because, face it, the other person might not like your refusal. And if you’re not liked, who would you be?
It’s a strategy with short-term payoffs (you feel better for a moment) and long-term consequences (resentment and cynicism for everyone). It erodes trust. And it increases the likelihood that each of you become ‘it’ rather than ‘I’ to one another.
How about the radical move of just saying no? Clearly. Compassionately. Kindly. No excuses. No get-outs. The honest, heart-felt, clarifying, liberating truth of the matter. Because unless you can say no, how can we tell when you really mean yes?