It’s good to hear that you are right, right? That smile and nod of approval feel good, right? You always know who that person is that you can call when you need somebody to agree with you, right? Well, dump them. Okay, maybe you don’t need to completely sever ties with them, but trust me when I say you do not need them in your life. These people who give you constant approval and positive feedback (aptly titled “Yes-men”) may make you feel good, but ultimately they provide nothing beneficial to you as a person.
Not every person to regularly agree with you is necessarily a “Yes-man.” Sometimes you genuinely have a good idea. However, if you notice that you are specifically seeking out the same person to run ideas by because you know they will agree with you and advise you to do what you think without offering an alternative, they have ventured into “Yes-man” territory.
Much like any other addictive substance, a “Yes-man” makes you feel good in the moment. They offer you approval and confirmation, validating your thoughts, feelings and ideas. But, also like an addictive substance, it can be hard to realize when the “Yes-man” is offering you nothing but that affirmation. Significant others tend to be the most frequent offenders because, of course, they want you to be happy with them (unless of course you are dating me, in which case I hope you are prepared for abrasive honesty). Other common culprits are best friends and people you live with.
I tend to have a difficult time gaining and maintaining “Yes-men” due to the fact that I constantly second guess people when they agree with me. I do, however, know a man who surrounds himself with a full council of “Yes-men” (and “Yes-women,” though I use the term to mean both), seeking them out anytime he needs to make a choice. This is extremely detrimental to him and to everybody else who falls into this trap. Think about it: Don’t you actually want to know if he seems like a nice guy? How about if you made the right choice in your schedule? Most importantly, if those pants really do make you look fat? A “Yes-man” doesn’t always have to say the word “yes.” They just have to say what you want to hear. But does that really help you?
Unless you are specifically seeking somebody to agree with you, a “Yes-man” is virtually useless. They do not present you with alternative options, they will not help you to see a different perspective or a bigger picture and worst of all, they will not give you their honest opinion. Trust me when I say I would much rather hear a friend or boyfriend tell me that despite what I think, my butt does look big. This way I won’t find out by being the wrong kind of internet famous. I will also be able to really think about decisions with the help of people who are not blinded by the same feelings I may have on a subject. In all honesty, I prefer having people disagree with me. At least then I can consider all sides (Audi alteram partem is one of my favorite Latin phrases for a reason).
It’s difficult to break cycles with “Yes-men,” but it can be done. Simply ask for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Some people will not be able to do this, and though they are good people, they are people from whom you really don’t need advice anyway. If you are a “Yes-man,” knock it off. If somebody doesn’t want your honest opinion, they shouldn’t ask. And if you care about them, you shouldn’t lie. “Yes-men” have good intentions, but good intentions only get you so far, especially when compared to good advice.