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Positive Answers to Request

Why say “no” when you can say “yes.” Not every question has to be answered with “no.” Hearing “no” or “wait” can be upsetting for people who have heard “no” or “wait” for most of their life. Telling a person “wait” if they struggle with the concept of time, or for people who do not understand how long it will be to get what they are asking for, is not helpful. Hearing “no” all the time can be very irritating and make people feel powerless. There are ways to make it more explicit to the person that “yes” you can have what you are asking for. This helps turn “no” and “wait” into “yes, and here is when.” Keep in mind that this does not mean that we say yes to every single request, as there are natural boundaries to what we can do.

Here are some things you can do or try:

  1. Schedule: Saying, “yes and here’s when,” affirms that the request itself is okay. It is desirable for people to ask for what they would like and what they need. This provides us an opportunity to schedule a time. You can do this using a visual schedule (e.g., calendar, a simple post it note or an electronic device). Using a schedule is something many people do. For example, Rhonda asks to go for a long walk at the park. “That’s a great idea; let’s schedule it for Friday afternoon at 2.” Jayne asks Michael to go play cards with her. “Ok Jayne, I’ll be there as soon as the clock says 12 p.m.” Will asks to go to pick up Lucky 13 for dinner tonight. “I like their cheese curds, that’s a great idea for Friday when we have more time. Let’s write that on the calendar so we don’t forget.” Juan asks for help with folding his laundry. “I can help you as soon as I finish charting and cleaning up. Let’s plan on doing that at 4 p.m.”

There are times when a request may not be able to be scheduled right away. For example, Jayme asks, “When can I get a new kitten?” could be answered with “That’s a good idea Jayme — maybe we should look into that.” Declan asks, “Can my sister come over and visit?” “That sounds like fun, let’s call her and pick a date.”

  1. Counter-offer: Maybe we cannot say yes right away but we can offer another idea. “That sounds like a great idea, can we do that tomorrow afternoon?” “How about if we make hamburgers for dinner tonight and maybe pick up dinner another night.” Providing a counter-offer is something we are all used to. Many people can accept another idea as a counter offer much better than always hearing “no.”
  2. Allow natural systems to operate. This helps create an environment where a person is not the one saying “no.” The more times we say “no” to people we are supporting, the more our relationship can appear more “power over” or controlling Jim asks to get a driver’s license. “We can go to the driver’s license station on Saturday to get the rules of the road book.” Quinn asks to go to the library. “We can go and see if the library is open.”

There are times when we do have to say “no.” When you have to say no and cannot honor the request, what could you do instead? You could offer choices, support someone in “waiting” or tolerate the delay. Most importantly, we need to be honest. This helps create trusting and supportive relationships.

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