How to Stop Being a Yes Man?

Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.  – W. Clement Stone

Last week, I was watching a movie starring Jim Carrey entitled “Yes Man”.  The movie is about a guy named “Carl Allen” (Jim Carrey).  Carl is a loan officer from a bank and an antisocial.

Carl always says ‘no’ to everything and he prefer to be a lonely man, who would rather spend time alone watching movie at home, rather than go hang out with friends.  He chose to seclude himself from people after his heartbreaking divorce with his ex-wife three (3) years ago.

A turning point happened that will change Carl’s attitude.   One day at the bank, he bumped into an old friend who invited him to attend a personal development seminar, which Carl hesitantly attended.  This seminar summons the members to become a “YES MAN”.  As such, they are encouraged to say “YES” in every request and opportunity that comes to them.

At first, Carl won’t follow the order; however, bad things happen to him whenever he says ‘no’.  Thinking it’s a curse; he followed the order and started saying ‘YES’.  From then on, Carl started to say ‘YES’ in everything.  He approves all the loan request of the borrowers, attended all party invitations from colleagues and friends, took Korean classes and jet flying classes, he even learned how to play the guitar, and so on.  His life started to change significantly, he became friends with his boss that eventually got him promoted, he met different kinds of people and gained a lot of friends, and finally, he had a girlfriend.

Since the day he started to say ‘YES’ in everything, Carl began to enjoy his life.  However, later on in the movie, there were a lot of consequences too.  Because he said ‘YES’ to everything, a lot of things got messed up.  The bank he previously worked at, before his promotion, was closed down due to significant losses on uncollectible loans to borrowers.  Carl was arrested and suspected as terrorist because he was doing suspicious activities all at the same time, like attending Korean classes and flying school.  Furthermore, his girlfriend discovered his covenant in saying ‘YES’ to everything and she begins to doubt his sincerity.

Because of the negative outcomes on saying ‘YES’ to everything, Carl approached and blamed the personal development speaker.  He accused him of misleading people by summoning them to become a ‘YES MAN’.  The speaker explained his point.  When he said that he should become a ‘YES MAN’, he only wants to help him get started in accepting and letting new things enter his life, since he closed himself to the world and lived a lonely life.  But it’s still up to him to determine when to say ‘YES’ and when to say ‘NO’.


The movie, YES MAN, was really entertaining and hilarious.  And as I was watching it, I’ve started to take notes in my head on how this movie relates in my life and in the life of most people.

Personally, I used to be a ‘YES MAN’.  I find it hard to say no because I hate disappointing people and I wanted to be nice.

Growing up, I was really proactive and over achiever, I strive to excel in everything that I do.  As such, it makes me happy whenever people are proud of what I achieve and when they look up to me.

I’ve lived my life trying to please the people around me, like at home, in school and at work.  I tend to follow what people think is good.  I do it because I want to belong and gain their respect.

However, there was a turning point in my life that prompted me to re-evaluate my life and how I live it.  In those days; I think I’ve already reached my limitation.  I got tired of pleasing people and started to see things differently.  I’ve finally realized that my life depends on me, as such, I should decide and act on what I think is good or bad for me, not based on other people’s opinion.

In my decision to change and live life the way I want it, I started to receive criticism and negative opinions.  People doubted my decisions and actions, at first I was affected, but I kept reminding myself not to mind them because it’s my life, not theirs.  So whatever they say shouldn’t matter.

And to tell you honestly, I never felt more alive since the day I’ve decided to live my life the way I want to.  When I started to say ‘NO’ to what I think are not important and say ‘YES’ to what I believe are important, regardless of other people’s opinion.

I’m sure many can relate to my story.  Most of us live our life in other people’s term, such as our family and friends.  We do this because we don’t want to disappoint them.  And yet, as we continue to live in other people’s term, we feel unhappy with our life.  We lack freedom to do as we please.

When we don’t know how to say ‘NO’ to unimportant things, and ‘YES’ to important one, we tend to solve short-term problems, yet we are creating a deeper long-term one.

So now, the challenge is for us to determine when to say ‘NO’ and when to say ‘YES’.


Malcom X, an American black militant leader have said,

“If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”.


People should know what you stand for, at the same time, they should also know what you won’t stand for.  It is better to be hated for being yourself, rather than be loved for faking to be someone else.

Here are some ways that can help you know when to say ‘NO’ and when to say ‘YES’:

1. Determine Who You Really Are

Most people seldom do self-analysis.  Oftentimes, people enjoy analyzing other people’s lives and behaviors instead of their own.

But if you want to be free and live life in your own terms, you have to first know who you are.  Determine what are your strengths and weaknesses, what do you like and dislike, what are important to you and the unimportant, what are your aspiration and dreams, etc.

Remember, before you direct other people’s lives, you have to learn to direct your own life.  Stop living your life in other people’s term, and start defining your own terms for yourself.

2. Know Your Priorities

Once you’ve get to know who you really are, now it’s time for you to know your priorities.  Priorities are your main concerns in life, such as business, career, work, friends, family, religion, etc.  By having priorities in place, it will be much easier to say ‘NO’ to unimportant things and say ‘YES’ to those that are important.

3. Let People Know What You Stand and Will Not Stand For

One major causes of broken relationship is lack of proper communication.  Oftentimes, we tend to suppress our thoughts and feelings for fear of hurting our loved ones, or fear of confrontation.  And then when we reach our limitation, we explode and start to fight back.

So before things get unpleasant and messed up, learn to set your boundaries beforehand.  Let significant people know what you stand and will not stand for.  I’m sure with proper communications; they will understand and accept your view points.

Saying ‘NO’ isn’t a sign of weakness or lack of ability.  The truth is,

The ability of knowing when to say ‘NO’ and when to ‘YES’ when you mean it, show a person’s maturity and strength of character. 

Only few people have such courage to stand for themselves and what they believe in, no matter what the obstacles and consequences are.  And oftentimes, those few who can do so are the ones who achieve real success and fulfillment in life.

For a final note, remember:

The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. – Leo Buscaglia

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