The power of “No, but”
Plus, the real source of your regrets
“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.” – Lao Tzu.
No, but. You might have heard of the concept of Yes, and. Inspired by improv comedy, “Yes, and” encourages you to accept offers from others and add to them. However, there’s also a case to be made for “No, but.” From avoiding projects that aren’t a great fit to preventing burnout, sometimes you just have to say no to things. But pushing back can be tough – especially in the workplace. In the book Seen, Heard, and Paid, WIRED editor Alan Henry suggests cushioning a “no” with a “but.” For example, Henry writes, “I’d really love to help, but I just don’t have the time right now with everything else going on. Can we check back in maybe X months and I’ll see if I can lend a hand?” The key is to decline the request while still offering a concession. In an interview in the book, psychologist Adam Grant said, “What that seems to signal is, one, I have expertise and, two, I’m not a jerk. I’m willing to help.” Depending on the workplace, declining a project might not be an option, but your boss might be more willing to see things your way when you buffer your objection with other options.
Just pick! Our regrets might not be as painful if we know what they look like. In an experiment, researchers told volunteers they would be “playing a virtual dating app simulation” that involved choosing dating candidates from a series of blurry photos. The volunteers narrowed down their choices to two pictures, then they picked the one they had the hots for the most. (Sounds like a bizarre reality show, doesn’t it?) They were then assigned to one of two groups. In one group, the photo they passed up would be revealed. In another, it would remain blurred. The researchers expected that the people who didn’t get to see their “forgone alternative” would feel more regret. They were right. Put simply, our regrets might be more about the uncertainty of our decisions than the decisions themselves.
The right stuff. Have you ever been in a position where you had to choose between someone you care about and a value that you hold dear? What happens in our minds when we have to decide what is right and what is wrong? Listen to learn more.
ON THE HIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST
June 6: When we set out to solve a complex problem — from building a house to growing a company — we often want to add things. But engineer Leidy Klotz says we often ignore one of the most powerful paths to innovation: subtraction.
ON THE MY UNSUNG HERO PODCAST
June 7: Heather is overwhelmed with grief when a woman at her church says something that makes her feel less alone.
June 9: Betsy is having one of those days where everything feels like a struggle. But then a kind stranger offers a few simple words that shift her perspective.
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Five people were eating apples. A finished before B, but behind C. D finished before E, but behind B. What is the finishing order?
LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE
What can you hold in your right hand, but never in your left hand?
The answer: Your left hand
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A MOMENT OF JOY
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