My post today in the A Step A Day series was titled: Not saying “No” means “Yes”.

By co-incidence, a few hours later, I came across this article in the Washington Post which I found quite interesting. Laura Sessions Stepp asks “ Why is it hard for adults to say No?“.

A few things caught my attention: “In order to say yes to what’s truly important, you first need to say no to other things,” says William Ury, a social anthropologist by training and a professional negotiator based at Harvard Law School.

Ury who wrote ” The Power of a Positive No” this year says the significance of saying no is a recent epiphany for him. “It’s the defining challenge of our age.” he says.

Secondly, the actual word “no” — as well as “yes” — starts appearing when a child is about 18 months old, as signaling between parents and children becomes more complex.

Third, by age 15 or 16, young people possess virtually all the cognitive abilities to make good decisions that adults have, according to Baruch Fischhoff, a professor of social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University.

Like adults, they must know 3 things to use those skills well:

  • what they really want as opposed to, say, what their friends want
  • what their options are
  • what will happen if they choose one option over another.

Looks like these skills are best learnt during childhood. Can they be learnt later in life? I am sure they can but it would take that much more effort and time to master.