There are Yes People–who quickly say yes knowing that they might not be able to fulfill the request. The upside is that the Yes Person maintains a “can do” attitude. They are contributing a hopeful sense of optimism to their coworkers and customers. Sure, they might have to disappoint some folks if it doesn’t work out–but most of the time they’ll be able to deliver–so better to positively contribute to the buoyant atmosphere of hope. The downside risk is that they may be perceived as flakey–that they tend to exaggerate possibility and ignore hurdles–and that they’re flippant with people’s disappointment when they don’t deliver.

On the other hand, there are No People–who quickly tell you the reasons we might not be able to do something, knowing that they may be able to “see what they can do” and “underpromise and overdeliver.” They loathe writing checks they can’t cash–and fear that an unfulfilled promise will undermine credibility, and damage the trusting environment we all need in order to love our colleagues and our work. The downside risk, of course, is that a No Person may be perceived as an Eeyore–and if people notice that they’re consistently turning their preliminary Noes into eventual Yeses–they may be undermining the very credibility they’ve sought to protect.

I think much of this has to do with the way we manage our individual expectations. Would you rather be hopeful on the front end knowing that disappointment is a fact of life? Or would you rather come in low with hope in order to mitigate disappointment?

I tend to be more of a “We’ll see” type myself. I’d rather underpromise and overdeliver. But I know that this can be frustrating to folks who interpret this as malaise or a lack of enthusiasm.

I sense that knowing thyself and knowing the folks around is more than half the battle. Yes People probably need to work toward more accurate promises. No People probably need to work toward more hopeful predictions.