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How Does Our Tendency to Agree or Disagree Work For or Against Us?

By Elizabeth Anne Saigal, Ph.D., CLC

Have you ever thought about where your own divide between “yes” and “no” lies? Our responses to our environment provide the foundation for our life experience so our response habits have a huge cumulative impact over time.

There is quite a bit of variation in an individual’s tendency to accept or refuse. You can get a sense for where your own tendencies lie by observing how you check boxes when you are asked for feedback. Netflix’s movie evaluation is one reference point which has the added benefit of allowing you to compare yourself with how other people respond. Each movie has an average rating based on scores which other people have already provided. Netflix adjusts this to give an estimate of what your rating would be for the same movie according to your previous preferences. If this rating is always adjusted upwards, your boundary lies more towards acceptance than most other people. If your rating is always adjusted downwards, your boundary lies more towards refusal than other people.

Of course, acceptance and refusal depends on the object in question and there are times when the choice is black and white, with almost every one making the same decision. However, what happens when the benefits or losses are less powerful and it is more of a grey area. This is where there is greater variability and cumulative impact over time.

In extreme cases, our boundaries may lead to dysfunction. People who are physically abused find their boundaries of physical space compromised and have difficulty drawing a line around their own and other people’s personal space. This may be expressed in being too open to physical contact or becoming totally closed off from it. Those who experience very controlled and authoritarian environments may find their emotional and thought space similarly invaded and learn not to demonstrate their own choices. In this type of environment, you may protect yourself by going along with everything or going along with nothing. If respect is not given by others for your physical being or for your emotional expression or cognitive contribution then you yourself do not learn to give yourself the respect you deserve in these areas.

If you are a “yes” person, you are much more likely to concur in everyday situations. This means that where there is suggestion that your support is needed you are much more likely to give it. You may not discriminate well between good, better, and best taking on more than you can cope with. In fact, you may experience an overload of opportunities and cannot stretch your resources far enough to really take advantage of them. You may also put up with situations that would be intolerable for those less likely to concur. Others may experience you as inconsistent, running from activity to activity, but it is really just an overarching liking for everything.

If you are a “no” person, you are much more likely to reject under ordinary circumstances. You automatically push back before you really consider the options before you. You may say “no” without consideration and find yourself having to take action to reclaim that which was refused. Perhaps there is too much risk in saying “yes”. Doing what others indicate places you under scrutiny and this exposure may make you uncomfortable. However, not taking part prevents you from giving of yourself and limits your ability to connect with others though this exchange which may lead to isolation over time.

How does each of these positions serve you? It is healthy to be able to provide a service when needed and it is healthy to prevent others from taking advantage. How do you discern what is required in any given moment, especially with today’s choice overwhelm. As a coach, both for yourself and your clients, find out whether you favor saying “no” or “yes” and experiment with the alternative. Consider how your framework impacts your life – does it burden you or enrich you. Take some time to gain clarity on where your boundaries really lie and then pay attention to whether they are reflected in your daily life. Find out what is critically important to you and use this information to guide when you say “yes” or “no”. Taking the time to align what you accept and refuse with your core-being will bring rewards of greater integrity and trust in yourself. What are you waiting for?

Elizabeth Anne Saigal, Ph.D., CLC., offers Life Design Coaching for those intent on connecting with their inner truth and aligning with their intuition to live a life on purpose. You can connect with her and sign up to receive her Free Ten Step Life Design System at