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When someone asks to pass the salt, it’s common courtesy to pass the salt. But what if someone asks you to type a report (that isn’t your responsibility), or to walk their dog (on your break), or to stay a little late to finish up (when you are salary & not hourly)? Do you automatically say yes? Are you a yes person?
Performance allows us to expand our brain’s ability to create, find purpose, and live according to the principles that call us. The rise of neuroscience allows us to be mentally, physically, and emotionally fit. Understanding how the brain can undermine our value system will help us adhere to our personal ethical sense.1
While we may say yes to certain tasks because we feel kind, or generous, it doesn’t mean that we should be perceived as a pushover. Several research studies have examined whether inhibitory control occurs unconsciously. One such study found that an unconscious stimulus could inhibit a motor action.2
This means that unconsciously, we may be programmed to default to yes. Instead of looking up & saying no, we simply go along with the status quo and what is expected of us. However, learning how the brain works during the decision-making process can create the conditions for better decisions to be made with the right ethics.
Honing mental health is just as important as a healthy body. Always saying yes to situations at work, at home, or socially is draining, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Effective leaders cannot do everything themselves. While it’s important to model generosity, kindness, and thoughtfulness, leaders have to be able to sometimes say no.
Learn to set boundaries. In short, learn to say no. Don’t guilt and shame yourself. Say no to people and things you don’t want. It is your right, it is your time, it is your energy.
There is a fine line between giving out of love and kindness and giving because you feel compelled to. A healthy relationship, be it professional or personal, should have some give-and-take. But, you can’t always be the one to give.
Saying yes can almost be an addiction or an automatic response. Retraining the brain to stop for a moment and consider more options is possible. Learning strategies or tools to tactfully handle situations where you are expected to do things you ethically don’t agree with or things that you simply don’t want to bother with is critical in achieving a sense of satisfaction and higher effectiveness in what one does.
Before you automatically say yes, consider these possibilities.
You can maximise performance while adhering to your ethical values. Stop focusing on everyone else and relax. Performance is not a static quality and it can be increased for a happier, more successful professional and personal life. Learning to say no sometimes allows you to maintain your ethical values and keeps your mind and body healthy.
1. Hughes F, Velmans M, de Fockert J. Unconscious priming of a no-go response. Psychophysiology. 2009;46, 1258-69.
2. McLennan K. Building Leaders for the Imagination Age: The Case for the i4 Model. About my Brain Institute. 2016;1. [White Paper].
Founder & CEO
About my Brain Institute
Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist, filmmaker and creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology.
Silvia's scientific background and curiosity about the human brain led her to a decade long journey of research into optimal brain functioning and the application of neuroscience in leadership and daily life. Her past and current roles have uniquely prepared her for the current undertaking, that of leadership activist & change agent.
Silvia Damiano founded The About my Brain Institute in 2009, with the purpose of democratising leadership & neuroscience. She has a passionately held belief, that leaders in our 21st century global economy and their organisations must radically change long-held ideas of what constitutes effective leadership
In her ground-breaking books ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, ‘Brain-Friendly Leadership’ and the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’, Silvia provides both compelling evidence and explores the importance of leadership in our personal and professional lives and what it takes to develop the human behind the leader.
Silvia has worked in different countries, across many industries, helping teams and organisations improve business performance. Silvia’s clients have described her as a passionate, dynamic, a highly experienced speaker and master facilitator on the topics of Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Change, Neuroleadership & Engagement.
Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.