Have you ever noticed how people tend to be a default no to new ideas and others a default yes, whether or not they change their mind after they’ve gotten to sit with it for a while?
My partner’s a default yes to most things I bring to him, as am I to most things he brings to me, except when I’m stressed for time or overwhelmed, in which case I tend to default to stammering, getting more tense, and then saying no because I don’t have the bandwidth to feel for my true answer in that moment.
The other day, wondering whether he’s a pushover or if he’s sublimating his own desires to mine when he says yes so fast, I said, “I’ve noticed you’re usually a yes to what I bring to you, even to massive things like buying a house. Is your yes really a true yes?”
He said, “It is! Especially when you’re clear about it. When I hesitate, it’s usually because I sense you’re not fully on board with the idea.”
I love this about him, the way he senses and responds to my desire and clarity (or lack thereof), often before I’ve fully realized where I stand.
We’re lucky in that we’re both able to say a quick yes or no to one another. We trust one another’s compasses, which has us live in harmony most of the time.
But have you noticed that people with opposite default first responses are often in relationship with one another and it doesn’t always go so well?
- The one who leaps and figures it out later is in relationship with the one who needs to make a spreadsheet and weigh pros and cons ad nauseum before making any big decision.
- The one who’s down to go out on a whim is in relationship with the one who wants to reserve pre-determined nights of the week for socializing and nothing more.
- The one who gets an intuitive hit and wants to start selling everything the next day to travel across the country, working remotely in coffee shops, is in relationship with the homebody who’d be happy never leaving their hometown again.
On the one hand, it’s great to have opposite decision-making styles as a couple because that can lend itself to creative collaboration and better overall outcomes.
On the other hand, it can be massively frustrating. It’ll undermine your relationship when this difference isn’t handled well.
For example, one of my clients, when she feels a yes, is ready to leap forward and take action right away. But her partner moves more slowly. His initial response is usually no until he’s had time to sit with it.
If she takes his no at face value, she runs the risk of collapsing in the face of his no, squashing her desire and building up resentment toward him because she never feels supported in going for the things she wants.
But here’s what’s actually true about his no:
- It could be a real no.
- It could be a request for more time to sit with it that he doesn’t know how to articulate.
- It could be a need for her to provide more information before he can make an informed decision, but he doesn’t have skill yet in asking for that either.
So it’s worth it for her to get curious in the face of his swift no, to figure out which one it is.
Getting curious would help her discern whether or not she should stand up for her desire in that moment, knowing he just needs more time to come around to the idea.
When you take someone’s reflexive no as their final word, without understanding that it’s their reflex — and especially if you make it mean that you’re unsupported in ever having what you want — everybody loses.
So I teach my clients — both the default yes and the default no ones — to ask directly for what you want AND stick around to negotiate by staying open and getting curious about your partner’s responses, with the ultimate goal of coming to a decision that feels good to everyone.
So how do you work effectively with a partner who’s got the opposite default first response from yours?
1) Get clear
It’s important for each of you to get clear on what your default first responses are, so you can start to capitalize on your strengths as a team and make decisions in ways that work best for both of you.
To that end, the Kolbe assessment is a great tool for learning about your strengths. You can take that assessment HERE.
I’m not an affiliate or anything, I just think it’s cool.
People who are high Quick Starts will tend to make more intuitive and quick decisions.
People who are high Fact Finders will tend to make decisions more slowly and need more information before they can proceed.
Knowing your strengths will help you not take your partner’s default first responses personally and will also help you stop judging each other’s style as wrong simply because it’s different.
2) Have a supportive conversation
Talk about your default first response style at a time when you’re not needing to make a decision.
Get clear on the strengths and weaknesses of each of your styles and how they’re currently showing up in your relationship.
Then talk about how you want it to be (especially if it’s not already working well).
The goal of this conversation is to understand one another more fully and figure out how to capitalize on your strengths, so you can have better decision-making outcomes with less friction and frustration with one another.
3) Create a plan
Come up with a plan for how you’ll approach decision-making as a couple from now on.
For the default yes person:
Appreciate your default no partner’s need to make decisions more slowly than you do and that they may need more information and time before they can come to a yes. Don’t collapse in the face of their no. Discern whether or not you’re truly clear about this thing you want and negotiate until they have enough information and time to come to an agreement with you about the best way forward.
For the default no person:
Appreciate your default yes partner’s intuition and learn to tune into how clear they are about their desire. If they’re clear about it, you could experiment with saying yes sometimes and seeing how it goes. If your no isn’t the final word, but rather a bid for more time and/or information, directly communicate that instead of saying no. If you don’t have enough information, ask for it. If you need more time to decide, ask for that.
By getting clear on what your default first responses are and respecting one another’s differences, you can function better as a couple and have more of what you each want as a team.
The relationship you desire is possible! Click HERE to discover what missing pieces are stopping you from having the connection and passion you desire.