Earlier this year, my personal Lord and Savior Tina Fey was recognized with the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award at The Hollywood Reporter's 2016 Women in Entertainment breakfast. Having heard this news, I snuggled up next to my computer monitor, furiously YouTube'd the clip of her acceptance speech, and waited to be transported. The Queen of Quips, the Warrior of Wordplay, my fellow sister in "Yes, And" - how would she encapsulate what it meant to be a leader in the entertainment industry? Better yet, what soundbite of her speech could I "meme" over a picture of myself as a fun and inspiring homage? I am a millennial, after all.
The result... surprised me. As I watched Ms. Fey speak about the struggles and triumphs of leadership in the entertainment industry, she said something I didn't expect. "Power is having the freedom to say 'no'." No, Tina? "No"???!? Tina. TinaTinaTinaTinababyTina - come on. We're not "no", people. Improvisers are not "no" people, Tina!!! Our respective careers are built on "Yes, And"!!!!
But, of course, she's right. The word "No" has an inherent power to it.
Think about it - toddlers, newly realizing their independence, are obsessed with the word "No". Bullies say "no" all the time! "No, you're not cool enough to sit with us at lunch", "No, I won't talk to you because I don't understand you", "No, you're too lame to come to my party". And it gives them power over the bullied.
"No" protects us from our fears and insecurities - If I don't try something, it can't hurt me. If I say "no" before someone else rejects me, I'll be safe. I may not grow as a person, I may not achieve all I want, but at least I'll be safe.
Oftentimes, when my company improve it! conducts a workshop for a larger group and play with saying "Yes, And", "Yes, But", and "No" in conversations, the highest ranking employees of the company will joke that saying "No" feels natural to them. They say "no" all the time! Because when you're the one being asked to do something, you're allowed to say "no" - it gives you control of the conversation / the interaction / the relationship.
So, how can we say "no" without falling into the trap of being a "no" person? Because, let's face it - "no" is going to come up eventually. Especially, as Lady Fey says, if your goal is to become a person in power.
While the goal may be for everyone to find the inherent power of "Yes, And", there are ways to find and share power with "No".
This week, we're celebrating the "Week of 'No'". (Sometimes it's good to be bad.) Throughout the week, we'll explore ways to harness the power of "No" but still create a "Yes, And" environment around you! Tomorrow, we start with "Active Acknowledgement".