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The Yes Man

Are you a yes man or woman? Yes!

Yes men or women are people who are over zealous when it comes to saying yes. You may find yourself saying Yes to pretty much anything? This is often a pretty impulsive response and few people , who demonstrate a preference for this impulse, would say they have fully scrutinised a situation calmly prior to their Bingo-type YES call.


Many people with this “trait” would describe it as a habit or just the way they are and yet at times acknowledge that their willingness to agree to tasks may have caused them to feel less enjoyable feelings such as:

  • · Stress and Anxiety

  • · Fear

  • · Guilt

  • · Procrastination & avoidance

  • · Anger

Some even describe it making them physically ill. (headaches, stress rashes, upset stomach for example)

Saying yes, like most responses, can induce chemical reactions, ignited by unconscious connections such as the “ I love to help people buzz” or “ I can’t let someone down panic”.

This spike in your chemistry wills you on to agree (in that millisecond) to say the Y word. It’s not until after the adrenaline and other chemical concoctions have chilled out that the more diplomatic and methodical part of your brain comes in and thinks “bloody hel” and reels of the list

  • · Not enough time

  • · I don’t understand

  • · Not enough resources

  • · I don’t even like doing that

  • · I haven’t got the foggiest

Now don’t get me wrong, saying yes to stuff you are not yet fully equipped for can’t be a great opportunity. For some of us it can generate new learning and exploration and increase our skills and capabilities, catapulting us out of our comfort zone and into new areas of confidence. If you have the determination to see it through and work from this zone, that’s great.

For others the panic of saying Yes comes with it a sense of deep demoralization of stress and feeling insecure. You may experience headaches or palpitations at the extreme level and find you become tetchy with others to deflect your feelings of fear and inadequacy.

You will know where you sit with this.

In my life I have surfed both types of Yes-Man waves and have to say some have left me floundering while others have led me to the achievements I am most proud of so navigation which is the right “Yes” to “Yes” to is not always the easiest thing, I appreciate that.

Changing your Yes Impulse

An impulse or habitual reaction might take you a little time to adjust on your own. You may have a full understanding of the where and why of you choosing to max out on the Yes reflex. This could also be a reaction of which you feel it’s origins are not understood right now.

If you want to say yes less, Yes? Then you can begin by exploring a curious response first. To start this off I suggest turning your simply Yes to Yes and…..

From here you can build in fact finding questions.

Yes and …..what is it specifically that you want again?

Yes and…..How would you like me to do that?

Yes and …… Let me just check whether I have time to do that?

That makes the u-turn a little more possible as it bides time to scrutinise, it can feel a little cumbersome at first and overtime it will form a new habit.

Another technique I share with clients, to reduce the impulse, is to count to three in one of two ways.

a) Press your thumb to your first three fingers individually counting in your head One (thumb to index) two (thumb to middle) three ( thumb to ring)

b) Press the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth for a count of three.

Both of these give you a chance to get the measure of the situation and can often help to pave the way for a calmer and more resolved response.

In work

If you are managing a team of people with plenty of “yes” vigour it’s worth having additional time to ask questions and clarify actions. This avoids staff who have activated their “yes” response falling short of your personal expectations and ensures clarity of capability.

I also encourage you to explore why they can’t say no. Are they an adrenaline fan excited by their next “yes” fix? Are they eager and confident to learn and grab each challenge by the proverbial’s? Or are they living in fear of saying no to you?

For some people learning to say no may be something that is innately difficult and it’s worth avoiding assumption that, as an adult, this becomes easy organically.

It can over time.

If you currently struggle to say no and feel horrid doing it, it may amaze you to hear that some people will explore outside help to learn and understand the motivators for this . With this comes the awareness of how saying no and yes in a more equal measure could help your well-being, if you are currently overwhelmed and panicking about all the things you have over-committed.

So whether it’s learning yes’s or no’s rest assured that if I am writing a blog about it, you are not alone in figuring it all out.

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