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“Yes” Overload: Getting To “Yes” By Embracing “No”

Updated on July 15, 2013

“Yes” Overload: Getting To “Yes” By Embracing “No”

July 15, 2013

Winston Wayne Wilson


“Yes” is a great word when it is the singular response to our most desirable requests – “Yes, you’re hired”, “Yes, you got the raise”, “Yes, you got the house”, “Yes, I’ll marry you”, “Yes, you won Powerball”……and so on. However, there can be “Yes” overload when we have to make a decision and we are deluged with a plethora of potential “Yes” options. Consequently, we become like a confused kid in a candy store – sort of like being on the Bachelor or the Bachelorette and having 25 eligible candidates to choose from; or having to make a career decision based on several great job offers; or having to buy one of dozens of great houses or awesome cars. In instances like these, we become overwhelmed and wished that we did not have so many indistinguishable options. The challenge is to figure out how to determine what is right for you when everything seems to either be right for you or none of the options seems to be visibly wrong.

One decision making tool that I have found to be useful is called a “value curve”. A value curve is a diagrammatic representation (line graph) of how competing options stack up against each other. On the line graph, desirable features are included on the X-axis and are juxtaposed against a range of values for those options on the Y-axis. Here’s an example of how a value curve can be used to make a tough decision. Let’s say you’ve been working for five years as a technology specialist and you decided to interview because you felt stuck in your current job. You interview with Google, IBM and Citigroup. All three companies loved you and gave you great offers. It’s now Friday and you have to make your decision by Monday. You’re overwhelmed because all three companies are great to work for. You would have easily said “Yes” to any one of them; however, now that all three are in the mix, you are suffering from “Yes overload”.

You speak with your friends and family; however, that leaves you more confused. Your family thinks that you would be silly not to take the job with IBM because of its industry stature, staying power and the company’s great coaching program, which is important to you. Your friends think Google is the coolest company around and you’d be lame not to take its job offer. However, you are leaning towards Citigroup because of the short commute from your house and the nice, modern office space.

Over the weekend, you come up with a list of features in a company that are important to you. On your list, you have eight features: compensation, career growth, career stability, coaching, corporate training, corporate travel, community involvement and culture. Based on your interviews with the three companies, as well as your research and conversations with people working for them, you rank each company. Specifically, you rank the companies from one to ten, based on your assessment of how well they can deliver on each of the eight features that are important to you. You then come up with the attached value curve.

Based on the value curve, you realize that each one of the companies outperforms the other companies for at least two features. However, Google matched or outperformed the other two companies for four out of the eight features – compensation, career growth, career stability and culture. Google underperformed the other two companies in coaching, corporate training, corporate travel and community involvement. You recognize that you cannot check “Yes” to all of the eight features being deal breakers if they don’t exist at a high level in each company. Accordingly, you decide to say “No” to coaching, corporate training, corporate travel and community involvement as being deal breakers. Therefore, Google emerges as the company that you should accept the job offer from because it aced the most items on your wish list and you think that your overall job satisfaction would be highest there. Now your friends are happy but your parents are peeved. However, you successfully overcame your “Yes” overload.

A value curve can be used to make any decision where you have multiple viable options and you are trying to flesh out the features that you should say “Yes” to versus the ones that you should say “No” to – so that you can arrive at a single choice. In essence, a value curve helps us to focus and to avoid that kid in a candy store dilemma when it comes to making an important decision. When we are not focused on key features that we value, a given option might appear to be more favorable than it really is – kind of like when we are drunk at a bar, while trying to pick up a date. Focusing means saying “No” to a lot of things and “Yes” only to a few things. If after doing a value curve you are still convinced that the options are truly homogenous, then pick one based on your gut feeling and move on with your life. There is a chance that the decision will have minimal repercussions. In general, however, whenever a choice you make turns out to be a bad one, chalk it up to experience. The important thing is that, the next time you have to make a decision, you will be able to refine what features are most important to you based on what you now know does not work.

My challenge for you is to begin to employ a more structured way of making decisions by using the value curve. Whether you are buying a house or a car; making an investment; or selecting a partner, the value curve can help to structure your line of reasoning as well as help you to prioritize the features that are important to you so that you can arrive at a meaningful choice. Enjoy your week.


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