The Half-Ass Yes vs. The Respectful No

The Half-Ass Yes vs. The Respectful No

By developing a mastery of our words, we develop a mastery of ourselves. By developing a mastery of ourselves, we develop a mastery of our words.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
Dr. Seuss

You have been working late for the past couple of nights and are looking forward to a night in to relax. Then you get a call from a friend inviting you out for dinner and a night out. What do you say? Do you give her a half-willing yes knowing that you really would prefer to stay in or do you give her a respectful no knowing that although it might disappoint her, it is important to get your rest?

You have just informed your boss that you would like to take a leave of absence for a couple of months and if the company does not approve, then you are willing to resign. He then offers to promote you to a new role including a raise in salary and extra vacation. What do you say? Do you give him a half-willing yes because it’s a promotion even though you know that you really need to take the time off or do you give him a respectful no understanding that your role with your company is uncertain but taking the time off is more important?

It’s been a couple of months since your last date and a guy who you are friends with but have no romantic feelings for, asks you out on a date. What do you say? Do you give him a half-willing yes even though you know you have no romantic feelings for him or do you give him a respectful no, reiterate how much you value his friendship and suggest doing something as friends?

The Half-Ass (or Half-Willing) Yes

We have all been there.
Instead of giving our best, we give less.
We say yes to something
a) we don’t agree with;
b) we don’t have time for;
c) we don’t have any interest for;
d) we have no intention of going to.

By giving a half-ass yes, we give a fraction of ourselves. We say, “yes” to save face, fear of what others may say, and so forth. In the end, the half-ass yes may accomplish all of these things but leaves us feeling less than whole. It leaves us feeling incomplete. Feelings of guilt, self-consciousness, doubt, etc. pervade us.

We live in a society that fosters “Yes” people.
We see this in corporations that punish individuals who go against the grain.
We see this when we punish ourselves for even considering saying, “No” to a friend/family.
We are pervaded with messages that tell us “say, ‘Yes’“ to everything to get ahead in your life and career.

While saying, “Yes” can be beneficial to opening up new opportunities and fostering new possibilities, it can also result in feelings of being overwhelmed, over-committed, and guilt.

Is giving half of ourselves better than giving all of ourselves?
What is more powerful: a half-ass yes or a respectful no?
What are you saying a half-ass yes to which would be more meaningful if you responded with a respectful no?

The Respectful No a.k.a. the Authentic Yes

No is often one of the first words a child learns. Prior to even speaking the word, they use their body language (nodding their head from side to side) to communicate, “No.”

In our society, we have been brought up to believe that “Yes” is good and “No” is bad.

What would it be like to remove the preconceived meanings of these words and use them as a means of communicating our authentic self?

Somehow more challenging than giving a half-ass yes, the respectful no is a call to our spirit. It asks us “what do we believe in?”, “what do we stand for?”, “who are we?”

The Respectful No is that tiny voice that tells us what we truly want to say, what we truly want to do, and who we truly want to be. The Respectful No is really an authentic yes in disguise.

It gives us an opportunity to be completely us.

It gives us the opportunity to stand for something.

It gives us a say in who we are.

Being able to use and ultimately master the respectful no allows us to give more authentic yeses. It allows us to give ourselves more fully to others AND ourselves.

Our words become more powerful. They become a better reflection of who we are and what we stand for.

What would it take for you to trade in giving a half-ass yes and offer a respectful no?
How would your life be different if you were able to give a respectful no in place of a half-ass yes?

*Living authentically. *

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”-Rudyard Kipling

Kipling uses this famous quote as a metaphor to the power of our words. They have the ability to influence the way another person acts and feels similar to the effect of drugs.

How can we utilize the true power of words such that they are more authentic to who we are? How can we become more confident in offering a respectful no in place of giving a half-ass yes?

As individuals and as coaches helping our clients,

Ask yourself, “What am I committed to? What do I stand for? What do I not stand for?”

  • What does living authentically mean and look like to me?
  • What does speaking authentically mean and sound like to me?
  • What am I willing to do and feel in order to maintain my commitment to being 100% me?
  • What would it be like to give 100% of myself to others?
  • Who would I rather be a friend with: someone who gives half-ass yeses or someone who is comfortable to give me a respectful no?
  • In what situations or circumstances am I willing to offer a respectful no in place of a half-ass yes?

Half-Ass Yes

  • Based on pleasing others, saving face, fear
  • Despite saying, “yes,” you know you a) don’t agree with it or b) will not do it; Therefore saying yes is meaningless

Respectful No/Authentic Yes

  • In alignment with what you stand/don’t stand for
  • Values-based
  • Honoring self/others

By developing a mastery of our words, we develop a mastery of ourselves. By developing a mastery of ourselves, we develop a mastery of our words.

Those who know others are intelligent;
those who know themselves are truly wise.
Those who master others are strong;
those who master themselves have true power.

-Lao Tzu


Kipling, R. (1923, February). Surgeons and the soul. Speech presented at the Royal College of Surgeons, London, UK.

Tzu, L. (2010). Tao Te Ching. (J.H. McDonald, Trans.). London: Arcturus Publishing Limited. (Original work published 6th Century B.C.).

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