Yes but…..

I try to practice tolerance. Yet I really struggle with one particular phrase: “Yes, but…” It’s a phrase I hear twenty times a day. It will always be the first words out of my children’s mouths whenever I offer my pearls of wisdom on an issue they are having. My clients are often saying: “Yes, but….” whenever a new strategy is discussed. My partner knows how much I bristle at the words and so he has cleverly adopted a new phrase: “Yes, maybe…..” There is no doubt that I am also guilty of questioning any piece of advice I’m given by a friend or family member.

So why do we all do it? Sometimes we use the phrase to indicate that we don’t want any advice at all. We just want to vent and be listened to. If that’s the case, we would do better to just say that. But it’s also a reflex. No advice will ever fit our situation precisely and we all want the perfect solution to our issues. So when we hear a suggestion, we have an overwhelming urge to clarify things. Yes, but I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work; Yes, but what if he just ignores me?; Yes, but you just don’t know how this person operates; Yes, but I don’t think I’ll be able to do what you’re suggesting.

Try to notice how many times you say: “Yes, but …” in a day. Who are you more likely to say it to? What reaction does the phrase spark? Can you sense the other person’s frustration? Now notice what happens if you bite your tongue before the phrase comes out. Pause after hearing some advice. Consider what is being said. You’ll probably end up taking on board some of the advice and rejecting the rest. But you’ll be doing your relationships a favour because your friends, family members, and colleagues will feel as if you’re really listening.


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