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What Does It Mean To Be A Yes-Man?

By: Danielle Farmer LPC

You’ve probably heard the term, but what does it mean to be a yes-man, exactly? A yes-man can be defined as someone who is constantly agreeing to plans, favors, or tasks without checking in with their own needs first. Although helping others can be beneficial to one’s mental health, if someone is taking on more than they can handle, it can become detrimental. There are several tips one can follow to ensure they are in a good place to say “yes” to others. Keep reading to learn more, and connect with Symmetry Counseling to arrange an appointment to meet with a therapist in Chicago.

Tip #1: Create a Pause

When asked to do something as a yes-man, most of the time a response is given before realizing what is being asked. Try creating a pause between what is being asked and your response. One can use remarks such as, “Let me get back to you”, or “I’ll have to check my schedule first.” Both of these options allow you space and time to process what is being asked, and to decide if you have the bandwidth to take on these additional tasks. By using a response like this you’re also taking the pressure off of yourself to respond right away. Once you’ve let the other person know you will get back to them at a later time you might physically feel yourself relax.

Tip #2: H.A.L.T.

H.A.L.T. is a tool that one can use to check in and ensure their basic needs are being met. H.A.L.T stands for hungry, angry (emotional check-in), lonely, and tired. One can view each letter in the acronym as a cup of water. Throughout the day, each of these cups loses a bit of water and will need to be replenished. Each one requires different forms of self-care to help pour water back. Remember you cannot help replenish someone else’s cup if yours is empty! Simply check in with yourself to ensure your basic needs are being met before helping to meet the needs of others. Don’t pour from an empty cup!

Tip#3: Redefine What “No” Means

Try to gain some clarity on where your fear of saying “no” is coming from. A lot of the time when we get caught up in the yes-man syndrome it is because we are afraid if we say “no” other people’s views of us will change. Try looking at it from a different perspective. If you were the one asking your friend for a favor, and they said “no,” what would your response be? Would you look at them any differently? Most likely, your view of them would not change.

Saying “no” can be a very empowering experience. By saying “no,” you are making yourself a priority– which is very challenging for most people who struggle to use the word. It isn’t a crime to prioritize yourself and your needs. It’s important that you do! Circle back to tip number three if necessary to remind yourself why.

Tip#4: Do You Want to Do It?

This tip is extremely important. Just because you have the mental capacity to take on a task or responsibility doesn’t mean that you necessarily should or need to. I want you as a reader to re-read that sentence again. If what is being asked of you isn’t going to bring you joy and happiness in some capacity, maybe it would be better for you to pass. Helping others can be very fulfilling, but again everyone is different. Everyone needs different things to help feel replenished. If you don’t want to participate in whatever is being asked of you, it is ok to pass.

Being a yes-man doesn’t have to last forever. By creating pauses, checking in with yourself, and reframing your negative thoughts you can begin to navigate what you want and need. Change is always challenging and uncomfortable, but don’t be afraid to lean into that. Sometimes it is necessary to go out of your comfort zone to see personal growth.


If you would like to talk to a therapist about setting boundaries with others, get in touch with Symmetry Counseling for therapy in Chicago.

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