Yes or No: The Guide to Better Decisions

Yesterday I was a part of quite an  interesting  bookdiscussion. The book was “Yes or No: the guide to better decisions” by Spence Johnson. Perhaps what made it most interesting is that everyone agreed they liked the book yet there was a big room for debate on the ideas. Yet before we go into those details it must be noted that there was almost a consensus on that the style wasn’t the best there is. In fact that’s a euphemism for boring and preachy. Manal for example said she felt as if she  was  watching an Arabic cartoon and I couldn’t agree more as I thought the book could be the business version of Bernie. Some even suggested it could’ve been summed up in one excellent 2-page article.

Be that as it may, the content obviously scored with the group. Ala’a, who had read the book the first time  9 months ago before re-reading it recently, said the book is truly valuable and that it helped him take the decision of choosing a system for his company few months ago. Tamer said the book couls be helpful in making choices in practical life and could help decrease the number of guilt trips one might have to take after making a wrong decision, for they know they did what they could and followed a tested process.

Manal pointed out that the formula the book offers for decision making doesn’t necessarily guarantee a successful decision, which prompted Ismail to remark that the idea of the book is to help you make “better” decisions, not necessarily the best ones, which is perhaps why Ala’a thought it would’ve been better if the writer had called them  “effective decisions”, because the idea of constantly perusing  better decisions is exhausting.

The discussion revolved around the 6 main point is the book, which are 6 vital questions, according to the author, for making better decisions. The first 3 relate to the rational part of making decisions and the other to the emotional part. And the questions are:


1-      Do I really need this or do I merely want it? (identifying the need)

2-      Am I aware of my options? (exploring the options)

3-      Did I think it through? (then what)

4-      Am I honest with myself? (Integrity)

5-      Do I feel good about this? (Intuition)

6-      Do I really think I deserve this? (Self-worth)


Each point posed a lot of questions and much to ponder on. First things first, when it comes to “the need and the want”, the group found it kind of limiting, because they thought in order to be ambitious and achieve more you need to seek what you want, not just what you need, yet some thought it all depends on the definition of the “need” itself. One man’s luxury is another man’s need, I suppose.


Then the discussion moved on to the issue of options and choices. Ibrahim thought it was good to explore all the options out there before making a decision, giving an example related to a recent purchase he made when he read the reviews of 60-70 digital readers before he bought his Kindle. (So now you know who to go to when planning to buy one). Ala’a begged to differ, partially, as he thought this could be applied when making big decisions but when it comes to buying little gadgets then, well, who has the time for reading reviews? Yet Manal thought it could be worthwhile as it could save you the money you could spend on things that would break easily.


The last part of the mental process is thinking the decision through by visualizing possible different scenarios through the question: Then what? Majd didn’t like the idea of asking “then what” questions because for her it’s tiresome and mind exhausting, but Deena thought it’s actually a good thing because “What if” is a “bad decision buster”. Ibrahim seemed to agree with Deena as this reminded him of something he read in an article about the only scenario being the worst scenario.


The second part which relates to matters of the heart, or the psyche, took less time some felt it’s inseparable from the first part. There was the question of integrity, what it means and how it could be achieved,, Intuition and how reliable it is, self-worth and how much it relates to each type of decision.


The group seemed to like the fact that the writer presented the steps in a neat gradual process which made it look easier to implement. They also discussed how applicable the process is in real life.


At the end of the session there was a brief discussion about how to choose the next book, the discussion method, how to admit new members to the group and the club name. There was also the idea of designating 15 minutes in each session to speak about how the members used the book discussed in previous sessions in their life and how they benefited from it.


All in all, it was a fruitful and fun discussion. Everyone got to take away something from it by exploring other points of views and how people see things differently.



3 responses

  1. I`ve read it, :correction: ,,, never finished it! For the resons u stated in the 1st paragraph.

    But it is a good one nonetheless.

    The process is a valid one, no question, but the thing is most books either concentrate on a one-way of “practicing” the process/model they represent or -worse- fall short of pointing to one!

    I guess steps #1 + #2 are crucial, distinguishing between wants & needs + identifying alternatives/options.
    We tend to “kid” ourselves that we KNOW how to pass these two steps (taking them for granted if u want) ,, and rushing into the other steps – quick fixes won`t (don`t) work!

    Thanks Ola,


  2. I found nothing in the June 6, 2011 post that I disagreed with but I do have a couple of thoughts I would like to share regarding the book “Yes or No”.

    First of all, the distinction between honesty and integrity was insightful. It makes one realize how ‘dysfunctional’ a modern dictionary can be. I’ve always thought there was something amiss with words like integrity and responsibility, but that is another blog in itself.

    Then there is the matter of style. I agree with with the group, once you get to the point you don’t want to have to read it again! That is why I especially like the little punch out map at the end of the book. I can go through the map, bring it all back to mind and move on.

  3. I think it is great your group read this book and hashed over the questions etc. It was recommended to me about 20 yrs ago by a psychologist we were seeing at the time. Another patient had found it in his quest for making said better decisions. I have recalled the questions many times over the years and continue to buy it for every high school grad I know. A copy in hand going off to my oldest niece as I write…..

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