Commitments And The Counterfeit Yes

We’ve all done it before. Said yes to something we aren’t able to do. Perhaps we are avoiding a difficult conversation, perhaps one where we are afraid of letting someone who is important to us down. “Yeah grandma, I can feed your frog while you are on vacation.” In the industry the counterfeit yes isn’t usually around feeding frogs, but instead it presents when someone says they can get something to us by a certain date and then they stop communicating and do not deliver. Or people say they will show up to do work onsite and they don’t-without any communication.

At the heart of the counterfeit yes is a feeling. This not only makes us human, but it connects us to our humanity.

Our nervous system allows us to feel and then we place meaning on those feelings.

People are generous and genuinely want to serve others and the work we do together. People thrive when connected to others. We thrive when we are in relationships that have reciprocity. Thriving feels good. Perhaps this is the first feeling that comes before a counterfeit yes. It isn’t easy to say no to a client or someone we are connected to. We genuinely want to be there for people. When we aren’t able to do that we feel bad. We can feel hesitant to say no for a variety of reasons, one of which is that if we aren’t there for someone in one instance they might never come back to us for future opportunities. In business, that can feel vulnerable to admit.

We’ve been exploring the circumstances that seem to get us counterfeit yes’s, and we’ve been getting curious about what we can do to increase our rate of getting commitment yes’s. Sometimes we hear organizations are struggling to get work done because their people are stretched too thin. In this industry, letting onto any sign of overwhelm can be dangerous and that is uncomfortable. Our nervous system allows us to feel and then we place meaning on those feelings. Pain and pleasure. Ease and discomfort. Relief and tension. If we aren’t conscious about these feelings we tend to only want the pleasurable ones. Saying yes brings us pleasure. Perhaps some hope for the future. It ignites us. When we discover we cannot deliver on a commitment, we panic. Because it isn’t pleasurable. It is painful, uncomfortable, filled with tension. The other brilliant thing about being human is we have panic to alleviate pain immediately. Any fight, flight, or freeze response-not showing up, not calling, blaming others, etcetera, are panic responses.

As a general contractor, the piece that is ours to own is our absolute need to get to yes.

In reality, we cannot be successful if no one shows up to build the pieces and parts of a building. We cannot accept no. We are experimenting with driving for a “no” or a confirmation yes, “that’s right”, so we can understand if there is a different approach we can take together to get to the finished product. As a general contractor, the piece that is ours to own is our absolute need to get to a yes.

A recent example with a contractor at Edgewater Public Market. We asked, “What would make you say no to doing this project with us?” The scope of work is more than he can handle with confidence. Now we are getting somewhere. It might seem like a “no duh” conversation, but each person in the conversation is dealing with feelings and emotions. We have a lot of different feelings and emotions related to building for a client. There is a lot of weight on our shoulders to perform. The market we are in right now is challenging. That leaves us frustrated, impatient, insecure, protective, nervous, and turning that into curiosity and concern can be tricky if we aren’t aware of our own feelings. We want to be successful. At the end of the day that is what our worth is measured against. Did we finish the project? And what was the experience like? Did we help our client realize the full potential on their project? Did we sacrifice others to get there or did we create a cohesive, creative, engaged team?

Costs are going up. One of the most important things we think we can do is show up with an open heart and generosity. We can use our fears to be curious, calm and focused to have conversations that open up possibilities or allow people to tell us no without exiling them. This gives us the opportunity to curate a culture where people feel safe to share what is truly happening in their world.

“Grandma, I can’t feed your frog. Honestly, I don’t think I’m going to remember.” True story.

What feelings come up for you when someone tells you no?

Steve Rogers