My daughter was around three years old when she took to saying ‘no’ to most things we asked her to do. My wife blamed it on me: “Like father, like daughter!”
I had no defence, but a friend came to my rescue, explaining, “It’s her way of asserting her individuality. Don’t worry, it will pass.” Well, the daughter grew out of the phase, but not her father. Perhaps the culprit was the book, Never Say Yes When You Want to Say No, which I had read as a youth and which had left quite an impression on my mind. Moreover, it had its advantages. As a Gujarati proverb goes, “Ek nanno sau dukh harey (One no saves you from a hundred sorrows).”
But the real payback time in a man’s life comes at around 45 years of age, when his children have grown up. So, one day after I turned the darned corner, my daughter ticked me off saying, “Papa, it’s time you got rid of your habit of saying no to everything.”
Stunned, I sought help from the Bible of self-improvement, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. And sure enough, I found a gem there. Even if you want to contradict someone, it is better to begin by saying ‘yes’, said the book. That day, I became a yes-man.
So, when wife said, “Shouldn’t we buy a second air-conditioner?”, I replied: “Yes dear, but we won’t be able to afford the electricity bill.” When she said, “You’d better cut down on sweets?”, I ‘negatived’ her saying, “Yes, but you know how difficult it is.” And when the daughter said, “Papa, now I should have a mobile phone”, I trumped the suggestion saying “Yes, but not before you enter college.”
The yes-card is so disarming. A straight no invariably draws an equal and opposite reaction, but packaged in ‘yes’, it goes through the defence like a Trojan horse.