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When my husband Peter died, I was surrounded by love and support from both family and friends. My friends encouraged me to move through my grief and cheered me on as I progressed through the pain. Occasionally there were a few who would say “yes, but you could be going faster.” Ouch! Here I was going through the worst grief of my life and they had to interject a judgement about my pace? Really?

“Yes, but,” makes one feel discounted, or negates any of one’s statements or movements. Even if the intent is to add their opinion, “yes, but” makes one feel like crap. “Yes but” can be adversarial, causing one to feel denied, not supported. “Yes but” points out the flaws in one’s ideas.

On the other hand, “yes and” is an expansive way to allow one to be inclusive in the conversation. “Yes and” does not mean you necessarily agree with someone, but it will build a more participative environment where you acknowledge you have heard the other person and want to be part of the process. “Yes and” is when someone makes a statement or a suggestion, and you can build on it together.

My father had Alzheimer’s disease and when he would say: “didn’t I know you from way back when…”. Most people would reply: “yes, but I am your daughter. Don’t you know me?” Instead, I would recite a little white lie and reply: “yes, and we were all old friends, way back in the old days.” All the angst between both parties was eased and it calmed us both down.
Getting a “yes but,” is like getting shut down. The “yes and approach” increases the interaction in a conversation, allowing one to participate and go further. “Yes and” is used in improv techniques. In Tina Fey’s, book Bossypants, she outlines the rules of improv: “Always say “YES, AND…” meaning, always agree, and add something to the discussion. For example, in an improvised scene with a partner, never say no. If you’re in a boat rowing down the river, you don’t say, “No, we’re folding laundry.” You say, “Yes, and we could really use a paddle instead of my arm.” It adds to the scene, humor can develop, and trust is established between scene partners.”

Examples of Yes And, Vs Yes But:
Yes, I know what you are doing is important. But I don’t have the time.
Yes, I know what you are doing is important and I will help you as soon as I am free.

You look great but why are you wearing that awful hat?
You look great and that hat is intriguing.

Your article is good but why didn’t you add the information about your research?
Your article is good and I think it might be nice to add some information about your research.

“Hey, Dad, I would love to borrow the car.” Dad’s response: “yes, but you always dent my car so why would I lend it?”
“Yes, and you need to bring it back in one piece.”

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Laurie is the author of the book The Joke’s Over You Can Come Back Now: How This Widow Plowed Through Grief and Survived. She can be contacted via her website: or Facebook or Instagram

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