Yes Man (A Social Experiment), Part One of Two

The movie Yes Man, starring Jim Carrey, is about a man who would always deny any type of spontaneous invitation. “Want to go out on Friday?” “I can’t…I have…to…study…” One of those people. I used to be one of those people.  Taking it to the extremes, the character in the movie attended a self-help seminar that challenged him to say “Yes” to every single opportunity that presented itself to him. A homeless man asked him “Can you give me a ride home?” He hesitated, replying “…Yes.” “Can I borrow your phone?” “…Yes.” “Can I borrow some money?” “…Yes.” “How about your whole wallet?” “…Here you go.” It ends up being quite the journey for the “Yes-Man” and he finds out a lot about himself throughout the process.

Within the past year, I’ve been improving in my spontaneity and tend to more openly accept invitations to do things at the last second. Still, I wanted to try this theory out. I wanted to see what would happen if, for a week, I decided to say “Yes” to every opportunity that presented itself to me (an introvert’s worst nightmare). I wouldn’t tell anyone about what I was doing so they couldn’t take advantage of my situation (This ended up driving my roommate crazy when I hinted that I was conducting a social experiment but didn’t tell him what I was doing). The criteria was that I would say “Yes” to someone directly asking me to do something, such as when groups on SVSU’s campus ask me if I want to find out more about their organization. Any e-mails or Facebook invites asking me if I wanted to show up to an on-campus event became mandatory for me to attend. The only rules were that I would not do something that I thought could end up being life-threatening and I could only say “Yes” to an event if I was invited to it during the week-long period and the event would take place within the week-span of the experiment. If I got invited to things that occurred during the same block of time, I would have to go to the one that I was invited to first (which meant classes and work schedules could not be affected).

I kept a journal to record all of the opportunities that presented themselves to me to which I replied “Yes” and followed through with. These are some of the highlights. Enjoy.

Friday, November 30

1:04 pm- I nearly had a heart attack when I opened my e-mail. SVSU was holding cheerleading tryouts and, according to my rules, I was going to have to say yes. However, due to the fact that the tryouts would be held Saturday the 8th, which takes place outside the limits of the week-long experiment, I was not obligated to sign up.

Saturday, December 1

3:14 pm- I came home for the weekend and was taking a nap on the couch. My sister sat on me and started poking me, asking “Kevin, can you take me to my friend’s house?” At first, I resisted. When I remembered the experiment, I said “Yes” and stumbled my way to my car.

6:02 pm- Dad: “Kev, try some blue potatoes with your venison.” Me: “…Fine.” (It actually tasted pretty good- just like regular mashed potatoes.)

Sunday, December 2

10:47 am- I was planning on leaving for college within the hour, then Mom asked “So are you going to help set up the Christmas tree before you go?” I wanted to just pack up and go, but I said “Yes” and helped Dad set up the tree. It ended up being a lot more painless than I thought it would be.

3:11 pm- I received an invitation to attend a free concert on campus in the evening. The concert, hosted by an SVSU singing group, ended up performing Christmas songs as well as modern popular songs. It was an invitation I would have otherwise ignored, but I had to accept it. The concert ended up giving me something to do to avoid studying and I was inspired to talk to the President of the organization afterwards on Facebook about the origin and purpose of the group.

Monday, December 3

10:14 am- I received an e-mail, inviting me to attend an event the next day. The museum on campus was hosting a board-game day, providing free milk and cookies for students as a way to de-stress from Finals. This was something I would have otherwise ignored, but the next day I headed over there after class. When I first walked by the museum, it looked like it was closed. I peered in and noticed there were a few ladies playing board games on the floor. I walked away and started heading to my dorm to avoid what I perceived would have been an awkward encounter. I was about a hundred yards away from the museum when I decided I’d turn back and man up. I walked through the doors and a greeter offered me milk and cookies. I happily obliged and began looking at pictures of WWII events they were showcasing. There were some pretty cool pictures and it ended up being a nice way to de-stress from Finals Week. Luckily, the ladies who had been playing board games left, so I didn’t feel obligated to stay and play.

4:32 pm- I was getting ready to leave my dorm so I could ride my bike to the library (2 minutes away) to print off a paper. As I was leaving, Roommate Sam called out “Where you going?” “Printing off some homework at the library.” “So you don’t want to walk with me to the Education building?” “Sure, I’ll go.” It was a longer bike ride to go to the Ed building (by three whole minutes), but I don’t regret it.

7:39 pm- While eating dinner in the cafeteria, Sam asked me if I wanted a cookie while he was up. I had just finished eating two cookies, but said “yes”.

Tuesday, December 4

1:37 pm- Sam entered my room, “Kevin, have you ever tried pineapple?” I answered, “I think on my pizza on accident once.” “Try some of this.” In my head I yelled “No,” but I responded “Fine.” I tried it and, to my surprise, didn’t throw up.

4:08 pm- As I was heading back from the museum, a random kid sitting in the hallway asked me if I wanted a box. I asked him to clarify and he pointed across the hall to a large box (probably 6’X6’X6’). As much as I wanted to say yes because I knew it would make for a great story, I didn’t trust the kid who had offered it to me. I figured it was probably school property and the kid was just seeing if anyone was dumb enough to steal it. Because of that, I added a stipulation to the guidelines of the social experiment: I can’t say “Yes” to anything I perceived to be illegal.

While walking away from the box, I noticed some people up ahead handing out fliers to attend an event they were hosting that night. My heart raced as I heard what the event was: a speed-dating session. Had they offered the opportunity to me, I didn’t know what I’d do. Thankfully, they were too caught up in recruiting the attractive female in front of me so I was able to walk past them unnoticed.

4:16 pm- Sam: “Kevin, want to go eat with me at 4:30?” I had just been planning on making myself something quick to eat at the dorms, then heading to the library to work on a paper. But you can guess by now that I instead replied “Sure.”

Thursday, December 6

9:08 pm- Me: “Sam, my social experiment ends in three hours, then I’ll be able to tell you what I’ve been doing this whole time that you haven’t caught onto yet.” Sam: “Yeeees.”  “You make up like half of the data so far.” “Can’t wait.” He handed me a bottle. “Hey can you go throw this away for me?” “Yes.” Oh the irony.

At midnight, the social experiment stopped. Stay tuned for Part Two of Two where I will draw some conclusions based on my observations and share with you some of the things I learned.

To be continued.


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