Talking Past the Yes

A boyfriend (who was a seasoned salesman) used to tell me that my worst habit was “talking past the yes.”

Apparently, there’s an old rule in sales that once your potential customer agrees to buy your service or product, you stop trying to sell. You just shut up, take the money, and leave before you accidently say something to make the customer change his/her mind.

Now, I’m not a salesperson, but on occasion, like everyone, I find myself trying to sell something—my choice of a restaurant for tonight’s dinner, for example—to someone else.

With my boyfriend, I was usually trying to sell him on the idea of taking me somewhere (like to the art museum or a bookstore) he wouldn’t normally want to go.

I would run through every argument I could think of:

“You can check out the suits of armor. The art museum is loaded with those and you LOVE that stuff.”

“That restaurant you like is right around the corner from the bookstore, and I’ll sport you to lunch after.”

I had all kinds of different ways to try to convince him.

The problem was, as much as I always expected resistance from him, I rarely actually GOT any. Most of the time, he would agree to what I wanted right away. But that didn’t stop me from continuing to lay out my many, carefully formulated arguments in favor of the outing.

In other words, I kept talking past the yes.

Why do I mention this?

Because I realized just this past week WHY I do this.

It’s because I’m a writer.

See, a normal person comes up with an argument because he/she simply wants to GET something.

But writers, like me, can’t just settle for getting what we want. No, no. We need to envision (and play out) every possible scenario, every turn of phrase, every passage of dialogue until we find the most perfect one.

We talk past the yes, because it’s not the “yes” we care about. It’s how we get there.

So, go ahead and talk past the yes. It’ll annoy the living hell out of your loved ones, but I assure you, your writing will be richer for it.

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