Are you a yes-man? 


In the world of self-development, saying yes is often spouted as a way to open yourself up to new opportunities that you wouldn’t have previously thought of and to embrace life as it comes at you. There was even a whole Jim Carrey film – Yes Man – made about this very thing! But, if you’ve had the chance to watch the movie, you would also know that saying yes all the time can get you into some undesirable situations.

Whether you are responding to requests that require your own personal investment or to requests made that affect your team and organisation on a whole, saying yes to everything is not always a good thing. 

What’s your motivation behind saying yes all the time? 

To start to flex your ‘no’ muscles, it’s important to understand why you keep saying yes. Is it just that you don’t know how to say no in a polite, caring way? Is it that you’re not actually all that clear on your own capabilities, values and goals or those of your team? Or, is it the most common problem; are you a people pleaser? 

When you say yes all the time, you become…  

  • Over-committed – squishing things into your calendar and unable to focus or dedicate your time to just one thing at a time.

  • Stressed – with too much to deliver on, deadlines crowding your brain and lots of people relying on you, stress can easily creep in.

  • Unable to deliver – say yes to everything and you’ll eventually run out of resources to deliver.

  • A point of frustration for your team –  an overloaded team will only become more frustrated as you approve more projects that they need to work on, especially if you have no clear motivation that they can understand.

  • Pressured to continue saying yes – after a history of saying yes, you become the go-to person to get a new idea or project approved. If you are concerned about pleasing people, it becomes very difficult to say no after such a track record. 

So, why should I say no? 

  1. You cannot do everything. Personally, you cannot take on too much for yourself but your team are also limited. Time, money, energy and any other resources you need are all limited. If you are unsure that any of these resources will last for the entirety of the request being made, it’s a good enough reason to say no.

  2. If the request doesn’t fit with your goals and values as an organisation. There’s little point in pursuing something that isn’t propelling the team forward to the big goals. If the request doesn’t fit, say no.

  3. If you are focused on not offending someone, rather than the reality of the request. Saying yes now might keep spirits high, but if resources are low and likely to run out, it’s better to say no now and feel a little bad than to be unable to fulfil the request later on down the track when blood, sweat and tears have been invested. Recognise when you are people-pleasing and say no. 

It’s not about being blunt!

Saying no is not always a pleasant experience but there’s no reason why some diplomacy can’t be employed in the task. 

  • Don’t decide too quickly – weigh up the pros and cons and take every idea and request seriously before giving your final answer. 
  • Delegate – you might not be able to take everything on personally, but is there a way someone else can take on the task to alleviate the pressure? Don’t write it off immediately, just because you can’t take it on right now. 
  • Flag ideas for later – something might not be possible right now, but show your team you value their requests and ideas by making sure it stays on the table for a later date when resources are abundant. 
  • Workshop the request – if it doesn’t fit with goals and values, throw some ideas back and forth to see how you can shift it to fit better to propel the entire organisation forward. 

Saying no is never easy but it can save your team — and you! — a lot of time, frustration and hurt down the track. 

Want to be better at saying no? People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.