Hey Sharon,

I think I may have developed a bit of a Yes Man mentality over the years.  In most cases, it is probably to avoid conflict (out of fear, right?) – my justification is that I am a team player, I am flexible, I want to keep everything running smoothly, and am hopeful and welcoming of change – this ends up being a bit of a ‘catch 22.’

In some cases, it may cause me no harm, but in others, when a colleague/friend/partner begins to or does take advantage of or become abusive toward me, it can lead to high levels of frustration. How do I recognize (early-on) the necessity to say no, or set boundaries – once I don’t set the boundaries, or don’t stick to them, then what? How do you say no at that point?

— ‘Jared’ (or we could just sign it “yes man”)


Thank you for the great questions.  The first rule of good communication is, never assume anything. The best place to start is to spend a moment examining if there are some possible unmet expectations. Has past behavior allowed them to think that the future will be the same? I think we’ve all heard the phrase “We teach people how to treat us” many times, but it wasn’t until I made it my mantra and began to examine my behavior prior to an “event” that things began to change for me.

Recognizing unmet expectations doesn’t mean you have to meet their expectations, it means there is or was little or no clarity beforehand on procedures, policies, constraints, etc.  So the purpose in the moment before you say “no” is to gain clarity on both your expectations and the other person’s expectations and what is and isn’t realistic.

Conflict often arises when someone: you, them or both of you are hurt, frightened or frustrated. In business and personal settings, I find frustration is the major player – often from unmet expectations.

When you start to feel hurt, frightened or frustrated, quickly, internally (not in an audible voice) role-play with yourself as an observer to the current situation, ask “What just happened between those two people?” (Yes, one of “those two people” is you.) Be as neutral as possible.

Then with this same internal questioning strategy, ask yourself “What part(s) am I responsible for?”   If your answer(s) come to the conclusion that you should have done something different or should apologize even if the incident was only partially your fault, do it. An apology isn’t weakness and it doesn’t have to be about only causing harm. Often an apology is warranted for not giving enough information that would cause an unmet expectation, it can be for using jargon that lead to confusion, etc.

Let’s reframe “Yes man.” If it fits, play with the idea that you are saying “yes” to looking for common ground… you could show a place where you both agree such as, “Since we both want <shared value, e.g. a calm work environment>… I’m curious what was the thought / intention behind <state what happened in third person e.g. the comment / action of – not ‘your’ comment / action of >…”

Listen carefully to the answer. Then all you say is, “Thank You.” The biggest take-away is not how they answered the question, but in WHAT question they really answered. Often people don’t answer the question that was asked.

Your only job is to listen and ask for clarity, a clarity segue is “Just so I understand…” or “tell me more…”. There is no rebuttal, no discounting to what they just said. Know that what they say could be mean, cruel and stinging. We can’t control other people-only our reaction to them.  They are not working yet from where you are working. They will learn new behaviors by seeing you and hopefully mirroring your positive behavior.

Have a great day whatever your adventure.

Warm regards,


PS: Sharon Says So is a no-cost Q and An opportunity that is open to everyone! I’ll select and personally respond to one question received that I feel in my experience will help the most people. (I change any information that is private including your identity – so all names and specific details have been changed “to protect the innocent” as they say.)

It is my sincerest intention that ~ in answering your questions ~ I may provide you with some insight based on my years of experience and that insight may change your outcomes. Simply submit YOUR burning question at: https://sharonsayler.com/contact-me/ to participate.