It’s not just about semantics. In fact, “Yes, but” may be the No. 1 phrase for killing personal hope, putting great ideas on ice and threatening innovation in organizations.
Take Jonah, for example. Jonah is a senior manager in the real estate division of a large financial services company when he learns of an open position in the company’s prestigious new-product research team. He’s been successful in the real estate division, but never really fulfilled. What he really loves is the charge he gets brainstorming new ideas and researching their viability.
Jonah is excited to apply for the position—initially, then during a conversation with a friend, he says, “Yeah, I’d be great for that team, but you have to know someone to get named.” After the call, he finds himself increasingly discouraged.
Will he get the position? At this rate, he won’t even apply.
Luckily, Jonah’s coach points out his self-defeating self-talk and suggests a simple fix.
“Yeah,” Jonah says again, “I’d be great, and it’s hard to get on the new-products team if you don’t know someone, but I’m going to give it a shot.” Catching himself again, he says, “And I’m going to give it a shot.”
He works hard on his résumé, even proposes a potential product line for the team to consider, and shows up impeccably for his interview. Jonah doesn’t get the position, and that’s okay because in the process he’s become clearer about his career goals. He’s inspired to take some classes and to develop his network of contacts, thus making his success more likely in the future.
And is powerful. And unites opposites opens up opportunity, creates possibilities that weren’t evident before. Couple andwith yes, and you have a winning combination. Here are a few more examples.
Yes, and opens up possibility.
Yes, I wake up many mornings with ideas for new inventions, but I’m an accountant. I can’t quit my job.
Yes, I have lots of ideas for inventions, and as an accountant, I’ve handled my money well. Next month I’m building a prototype of my most promising idea.
Yes, and invites cooperation.
Yes, I’d love to telecommute, but my boss doesn’t trust anyone and would never go for it.
Yes, I’d love to work from home, and my boss has trouble trusting his employees. I’ll develop a proposal showing him the benefits of telecommuting and suggest that we try it for a month.
Yes, and encourages creativity.
Yeah, I’d love to live here, but you have to be rich to buy a house in this market.
Yeah, I want to live here, and the market is challenging. So I’m seeking unconventional opportunities as I improve my finances.
Try it on. Every time you hear yourself say, “Yes, but,” change it to “yes, and.” In that moment, you’re breaking the habit of closed thinking. The more you do it, the more open your thinking will become. As with any habit, it takes time to break. And it’s worth it.