The Crippling Effect of ‘No’

At this point of the year, most architecture offices have either had a summer intern or have hired a recent graduate. These people come in with varying levels of experience, but for the most part, can be defined with a single term: enthusiasm. Most are younger and full of energy. They are coming from institutions that inspire and encourage thinking “outside the box”. The optimism is practically written across their foreheads.

Cut to a scene of a typical architecture office.

Most of us have lost a bit of the ‘fresh out of the box’ shine after a few years or even a few decades. We get bogged down by the limits of construction budgets, office politics, project schedules, and a myriad of other “they didn’t teach us this in school” subjects. It can be difficult to not project these extracurricular worries onto younger people that are fresher into the workforce. It can be hard not to see their optimism and eagerness and want to counter it with an underhanded comment about “in the real world” or “when you get further along in your career”. The biggest issue with countering enthusiasm with negativity is that it takes the momentum that people have and throws an emergency brake on it. Not only does it have the likelihood of curbing the current zeal for working in architecture, but it will also prove to be much more difficult to instill a sense of gusto in the future. People that have a sense of enthusiasm for work and the obvious want to do more should not have their energy stifled, but should be encouraged and guided.

This doesn’t just go for being a wet blanket when met with an overly peppy person. When they come to more experienced people within their offices with questions or ideas, the response should never be “ask someone else”, “we can’t do that”, or any other momentum killing “no” comment. It’s like the old adage of improvised comedy or acting: never say no. If someone comes to you with an idea in an improv sketch, you are not allowed to say no. Instead, you must take what the person has presented to that scene and play off of it in order to keep things moving forward.

We all have days (or mornings for some of us) where it’s difficult to find the enthusiasm and patience to deal with things that aren’t our own laundry lists of tasks. On the other hand, we have all been in the situation of being recent graduates and wanting more out of our careers and desperately wanting to prove that we are capable and worthy of being trusted.

We all have the responsibility of listening when people have questions, ideas, or just something to say and not shooting it down. Instead of stopping momentum in its tracks, we must guide it and turn it into productive learning because if we curb momentum early on, it will be just that much harder to start again later.

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