Are you a YES man (or woman)?

Traveling to different countries has taught me that just because everyone is speaking English doesn’t mean that they are actually saying the same thing.

I just returned from a holiday in Fiji. Over there, when they say ‘we’re leaving in five minutes’, that could mean anything from half an hour, to five hours, to tomorrow. So if you want to be somewhere in five minutes you need to be a day ahead of yourself. They call it ‘Fiji time’….. It covers a multitude of sins.

Something I learned from working in Asia was that ‘No’ is not a particularly favoured word in their vocabulary. Actually in some countries it isn’t used at all. So if you ask your client if they’ve sent the payment, or the product, or done something which requires a yes or no answer, they may say ‘yes’, whether they have or haven’t. Saying ‘no’ would lose face.

I had to find strategies for negotiating with these clients in a way which ended up influencing the way I worked with all my clients. When asked if something can be done, I always say ‘Yes’.

I know that goes against the grain. Especially when someone is, for example, asking you to pull together a feature film sized production in Singapore involving wild animals, supermodels, and make it look like New York. In one week.  Well, that’s a bit extreme, but you get the gist.

Anything can be done, with conditions.

Yes, you can have the Siberian Tiger, if you’re happy to change the location to a country which has a cooler climate to accommodate our Tiger’s needs.

Yes, you can have the super model. It will cost this much more, and you’ll need to shoot on these dates so it fits around her Vogue assignment.

Of course we can meet your deadline, if we double the number of crew (and therefore cost) to get the set built in time.

Yes we can meet that budget if you are happy to extend out the schedule to allow for less crew and to find suitable street talent in place of the model.

Being a ‘Yes’ man is great as you offer them solutions and hand the decision back to them. You are agreeing to one part of the request, not all.

I can think of the occasional time you would want to say no. But why would you ever need to? Why would you not just be busy? Or out of town?

No one likes to be rejected. And our Asian counterparts manage very well without it.