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 entitled “Yes Man”.

The movie revolved around the story of a guy named “Carl Allen”, which was played by Jim Carrey.

At the start of the movie, Carl, was a loan officer working in a bank. He’s rude, cruel, cynical and anti-social.

As a bank loan officer, people come to him applying for loan, whether for business or personal. But with Carl, it was difficult to get a loan. He always reject loan applications.

Carl say ‘no’ to almost everything. He prefers seclusion rather than socialising. He 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.

But a defining moment happened that changed Carl’s attitude.

Carl was having a normal day in the bank when he saw an old friend. His friend was reckless and carefree but was energetic and positive.

His friend noticed Carl’s cynical attitude and wanted to help him be more positive. So Carl’s friend invited him to attend a personal development seminar. Carl was initially hesitant but was convinced to attend.

In the seminar, the members are encouraged to be a “YES MAN”.

“Yes Man” means they have to say “YES” when people ask.

At first, Carl won’t follow. But bad karma happens whenever he say ‘no’. Or that’s what he think.

Convince he’s going to be cursed if he says no, he decided to follow and be a ‘YES Man’.

From then on, Carl started to say ‘YES’ in everything.

He approved 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. Finally, he had a new girlfriend.

Since the day he started to say ‘YES’ in everything, Carl began to enjoy his life.

However, there were a lot of consequences too.  By saying ‘YES’ to everything, things got complicated.

The bank he works at went bankrupt. Mostly because of the significant losses on uncollectible loans to borrowers which Carl recklessly approved of.

Carl was also arrested as suspected terrorist because he was doing many suspicious activities all at the same time, like attending Korean classes and flying school.

Lastly, his girlfriend discovered he was a ‘YES Man’ that caused her to doubt his sincerity.

Furious and confused with all the negative consequences of becoming a “YES Man”, Carl approached and blamed the personal development speaker.  He accused him of misleading people by encouraging them to become a ‘YES MAN’.

After listening to Carl, the speaker then explained what he meant by ‘YES MAN’. It was only to encourage him to accept and let new things come in to his 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.

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 around me are happy.

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.

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, co-worker, friends or community.

You do this because you don’t want to disappoint people, you want to belong.  But as you continue to live in other people’s term, you feel unhappy with your life.  You lack freedom to do as you please.

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

So now, the challenge is for you 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, you tend to suppress your thoughts and feelings for fear of hurting your loved ones, or fear of confrontation.  And then when you reach your limitation, you 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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