"Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best." — John C. Maxwell
In an effort to please people and avoid confrontation, Yes People say "yes."
They say “yes” without thinking things through.
They react to the latest demands on their time by forgetting prior commitments, and overcommit until they have no time for themselves.
Then they become resentful.
In Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner write about how to deal with Yes people.
Your Goal in Dealing with a Yes Person
Your goal in dealing with a difficult person who is demonstrating a Yes Person behavior is to get commitments you can count on.
"Your goal with this problem person is to get commitments you can count on, by making it safe for that person to be honest, teaching him or her task-management strategies, and strengthening the relationship. …
The challenge is to get them to do what they say they will do."
Action Plan for Dealing with a Yes Person
Brinkman and Kirschner provide prescriptive guidance for dealing with Yes people:
- Make it safe to be honest. Make the communication environment a safe one so that the two of you can honestly examine whether promises being made in the future will be promises kept. This could be a one-time long conversation, or it may require several meetings over an extended period of time.
- Talk honestly. If you think the Yes Person is angry or resentful about something, or believes in the excuses, whether justified in your opinion or not, encourage the person to talk it out with you. Hear him out, without contradicting, jumping to conclusions, or taking offense.
- Help the person learn to plan. Once you’ve listened to your Yes Person’s point of view, it will be obvious to you "why" you can’t take "yes" as an answer. This is the time to create a learning opportunity. By using the past experience as a template, you can go back together and approach the task as if it’s in the future. What motivation was missing? What could have been done differently? How else could the situation have been handled? Help the Yes Person focus in on the specific action and steps and process involved in accomplishing the task.
- Ensure commitments. At the end of the discussion, thank your Yes Person for talking the problems out with you, and ask, "What will you do differently the next time you’ve made a promise to me and you are unable to carry it out?" Once you’ve received your answer, you must follow through and ensure commitment. See Five Ways to Ensure Commitment and Follow-Through.
- Strengthen the relationship. Look at every interaction as a chance to strengthen the relationship. Acknowledge the times when your Yes People are honest with you about doubts and concerns, make an event out of every completed commitment, and be very careful how you deal with broken promises. Five Ways to Strengthen a Relationship.
Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:
- Be careful of your own wishful thinking. Remember that a "Yes" doesn’t mean it will get done. Follow up and avoid surprises. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
- Remember that they mean well. They don’t say Yes to screw you. It’s an aim to please and because they have some poor task-management practices.
- Use it to improve your task-management skills. It’s one thing to get your direct tasks done. It’s another to manage the completion of tasks you delegate or have a dependency on.
- Think of yourself as a mentor. Not everybody is successful at managing priorities or managing what’s on their plate or setting expectations. Share what you’ve learned that works.
I find it helpful to remember the saying, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”
While the Yes person that says “yes” to everything may mean it at the time, you have to recognize when that can’t possibly be true, or that it’s not a good idea.
Help them save themselves from themselves.
And that goes for you, too — Got it?
Is that a “Yes” I hear?