“Yes, but…”

When someone presents an idea that has some good elements and some bad elements, it can be tempting for me to say:

“Yes, but [whatever I think is wrong with their idea]” instead of:

“Yes, and here’s how you could build on that idea”.

“Yes, but…” can make them feel like you don’t understand what they’re trying to say, or that you are only focusing on their faults.

“Yes, and…” gives them the opportunity to see how they could make their idea better without stepping on their ego.

They’re more likely to accept an addition that feels like it’s along the same line of thought.

Even if it’s a bad idea you don’t want to build on, acknowledging the 10% of their idea that is actually good is important.

I recently talked to a teenager who was complaining about a difficulty in his life and my response was essentially (and gently) “adult life is harder”.

I wish I had used the “Yes, and…” approach with that conversation. It would have been more empathetic.

Yes, you have challenges now that are difficult, and they are a training ground preparing you to meet harder challenges later.”

That’s what I meant. I don’t know if he understood that because I didn’t frame it properly.

So next time you notice yourself starting to say, “Yes, but…”, try “Yes, and…” instead.

And if you can’t honestly say that, still try to find something true in what they said that you can acknowledge.


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