A Simple Yes or No


I was caught off guard, not ready for the question. A lady that I didn’t know invited my son to come over and play with her daughter right then. The children were in the same class, but I didn’t know anything about this family. The kids stood there looking at me; my son with a look of terror on his face, and her daughter was smiling. It should have been a simple yes or no question.

So many things ran through my mind. Why in the world would a complete stranger ask my kid to come to their house? Didn’t she know that you meet in a neutral place like a park or Chick-Fil-A for the first play date to see if the parents and/or the kids get along? What kind of lunatic was this woman? You can’t just ask for a playdate on the spot!

I could have simply said “No,” but I did what any good mother would do, I put the heat on my kid. I said, “Buddy, do you want to go play?” wondering if the other mom would think we were one of those families that lets their kids call the shots. (By the way, we’re not usually, but that day I threw my son under the bus!)

Without hesitation, he answered, “No, Mommy.” I said, “Well, maybe another day. He’s not feeling it today,” or something to that effect. She seemed ok with that answer and we said our goodbyes. I felt like a jerk because the whole thing was just so awkward. Why couldn’t I woman up and say, “No, not today,” and be done?

simple yes or no

Why yes and no isn’t so simple

Thinking about this sometime later, I realized how innocuous the question was, and all that it required was a simple yes or no, much like most things that happen in daily life with human beings. However, a simple “Yes” or “No” isn’t so easy for me. I’m learning that’s really the right thing to do.

“Yes” comes easy for me. I will shout “Yes” to almost anything, but that’s not always good. Lots of times I’m caught up in the moment and sincerely want to do whatever I’m agreeing to at the time. I’ve been known to be motivated by wanting you to like me so I think a “Yes” is the seal of approval. However, an empty yes, is pretty much a lie. Me saying “Yes” now and backing out later breaks trust. It doesn’t make it easy to have a relationship with me if you can’t trust my “Yes.”

“No” is complicated for me too. If I don’t have a solid reason to say “No,” I don’t feel like my “No” is sufficient, or valid. Let’s say I have an appendectomy scheduled on Tuesday, I most certainly cannot attend the ladies’ luncheon. So “No” is a non-issue for me in that situation. But if I don’t want to go or Tuesday is the only day I have to get caught up on housework, I don’t feel like I should say “No” because there’s not a “real” reason not to.

The Bible speaks about empty promises in Matthew 5 verses 35-37. The Message version says, “Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.” For me, it speaks to this situation of saying yes or no and meaning it.

I try to keep a few things in mind having to answer “Yes” or “No”:

  • I ask for some time to think about the proposal and answer honestly after I’ve thought about it. If I say yes, stick to it.
  • People simply want facts to use to make decisions. They want the Yes or the No so they can make plans. And excuses and backing out causes more trouble than its worth.
  • Changing my answer from Yes to No or vice versa takes more energy and emotion than if I’d given a thoughtful answer from the start. Backing out and excuses can be perceived as unreliability and I don’t want that.
  • I’m not as worried about what people think of my answer as I used to be, so the more I give an honest Yes or No, the easier it is to do. Practice makes, well, not perfect for me but practice makes progress!

Do you struggle with simple yes or no questions?

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Dede Kennedy is part of a dying breed ... a native of Mt. Pleasant. She is happily married to her husband Sean and the mother of two gorgeous sons ages 8 and 11. When not trying to keep her boys out of harm's way, Dede works at a popular restaurant on Sullivans Island. She is a Christian and an active member of her church. Dede can be found making corndogs and serving up Kool-Aid for the neighborhood kids who hang out at her home (the one with all the bicycles in the yard). Dede is a blogger and a two-time cast member of the national "Listen to Your Mother" show. Dede has dabbled in stand-up comedy and is writing a fiction book.