Our family is wrapping up a two week stint hosting a student from Costa Rica. It has been a fabulous experience—one filled of fun, learning, and connection for all of us.
Although Charlie is quite fluent in English, there were some moments where the translations didn’t quite add up. Most of the time, these were great opportunities to practice and learn, and other time were pretty funny. One thing consistently stuck out to me. I am not sure if it was cultural or due to the language difference, but each time I would ask Charlie a question he would answer with a very precise, “yes” or “no.”
This may sound funny to you, but think about how many times a day, a week, or month you answer affirmatively with a resounding “YES.” In America (or at least in my small slice of the country), it is all “sure” and “maybe” and “that should work.”
I am not sure why this is, and each circumstance is different. (I also know that I am hyper aware of the specifics of language.)
Here are a few of my opinions on what I refer to as vague language:
“Sure” is a way of saying “yes” without being vulnerable. If you are more nonchalant then you won’t have to care that much if you don’t get what you want. You don’t have to show yourself or others that you do really care.
“Maybe” is obviously noncommittal. Why? Sometimes it is truly a planning issue. Other times, it is to keep your physical schedule or brain and heart space open for better options. Or, you fear that you might be tired from saying yes to so many things that you don’t want to do, or have to do. You are interested, but you want to leave the door slightly open to an out.
“That should work” is the most confusing one of all. It always leaves me wondering when I should check back to confirm if it does actually work. Again, it leaves the possibility of canceling or changing plans, or other commitments of any kind.
It is definitely possible that sometimes you sincerely don’t care about the outcomes. I am not claiming that everything has to be a 10/10 affirmative. But, all of these answers are likely products of decision fatigue in a culture where we can have, and do, so much. We struggle to commit when we are living a life filled with reaction, verses intentionality. We celebrate hustle culture, yet we lack tools and resources to manage our daily stress, so we don’t want to overpack our schedules further. We are exhausted and burnt out. And overall, we kind of suck at being vulnerable, in a culture that celebrates control and manipulation over true connection.
If we say “yes” we feel exposed and held accountable. (And although this blog is focusing on the affirmative, if we say “no” we fear other backlash… and the inability to say “no” to things that don’t align with our values often leads to the desire to use these vague answers. Just say no is a different and equally important blog topic!)
I am just as guilty as anyone of this, even though I believe it often comes with good intentions (except “that should work”- that one just does’t make sense to me). I hesitate to say “yes” because I want to keep my death grip on control, making sure that life is aligning in the way I want it to before I add in one more thing. Living in reaction confuses priorities and leads me away from following my values And if I am being completely honest, other times I just don’t want the accountability of the decision, and being vague in my answer loosens the attachment to the outcome.
I have employed this wishy-washy approach to choosing races over the last few years. I do, without a doubt, know that I sincerely want to race more. And, while I need to be financially responsible, I am thankful that fees are not the obstacle. I can even plan to occasionally travel to race.
But…I still drag my feet. I tell myself and others, “maybe” and “we will see.” I say “YES” to one or two races, ones that I am confident I can craft a training journey that will allow me to show up to my absolute best on race day. And then I hide from the others, afraid that I won’t be fit or fast enough to race raw and exposed in front my athletes, to my coach, and ultimately have to face any amount of disappointment in myself. “Maybes” turn into opportunities gone by, and I find myself yearning for more.
Sound familiar? Your reasons for staying vague in your decision making might be somewhat or very different. Sometimes it is likely valid, and other times it is due to fear, living a reactive life, or constant burnout and exhaustion.
Personally, I am inspired by Charlie. I am going to say, “yes” more. I am going to vulnerably show up and have some fun while giving what I can that day. I want to inspire you all to do the same— when faced with decisions, reflect on what you want. Say “yes” when you can. (And when you want to, say “no”… that is often a way to say “yes” to something more important!)
If you find yourself constantly living in the “vague” part of life, take some quiet time to reflect on what and who you need to let go to be able to start creating a path to a clearer “yes.”
You only get one go in this life. Take some risks, be vulnerable to yourself and others.
Just say YES. 🙂