It’s such a powerful, brilliant word, and yet it’s horribly overused. We say it when we don’t mean it and get ourselves into obligations we can’t get out of. We attack questions using it as the bullets in our machine-gun defence. It becomes staccato. Unrhythmic. It’s everything this word wasn’t meant to be.
I’m talking about yes.
Or Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah, as it’s often heard in public, which I can’t help but think means the exact opposite (as in ‘No, go away and don’t bother me again’). I’m certain that all those misfiring ‘Yeahs’ are a symptom of our constantly-activated high-stress sympathetic nervous response.
Our brains are under attack from a world that’s moving too fast. (I’ve gone on about this before.) Our response reflects how our poor tired neurons are having to fire constantly. We have to pay attention to everything moving far more quickly than we’re able to cope with. The result: constant impatience, neural fatigue, decision overload and – as always – yet more pumping of cortisol and adrenaline, leading to our ever-raising stress levels.
We say yes when we can’t handle the yes. In a 2012 study of over 6.7 million internet users, the abandonment time for a video to load was two seconds. After ten seconds, half the users had said yes to something else, swiped away and moved on. We don’t know how to slow down, and that’s so important for our health and well-being.
Let’s all start thinking about whether our yes is the yes we really need.
Maybe we could even try that other word, just as powerful. Maybe sometimes it’s not negative, but helpful.
Perhaps it’s time to start saying No.