Turning “yes, but…” to “Yes, and…”

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2011-03-10 12:00:49 -0600
Started 2011-03-07 22:27:35 -0600

Imagine this situation: Your doctor or your CDE or a support group member makes a suggestion about how you can make a change to your diet, or kick start your exercise plan. You consider it a moment… it seems logical… and certainly not out of the question… Well?

“Yes, but…” Sound familiar?

I often work with my clients on creating goals that they, in turn, commit to. These goals are often very simple, like getting together with a friend, taking a walk, trying a healthier snack, or giving themselves encouragement rather than criticism. Basically, little goals that can help when making positive change to routines like diet and exercise.

And then when we talk about how to get started, or what gets in the way, or about what they might try next, their next sentence often begins with “yes, but…”

The “yes, but” response seems to be one of the most common phrases in the English language. How about with you? Every feel like you have every reason to do something positive for yourself, yet then when you get a gentle push to take the next step… “Yes, but…” followed by all the reasons why you said you could or think you can… but…

Think about something. “Yes, but” is often followed by the word, “can’t.” Human beings are hard-wired to stay the same and to avoid change. Old habits are hard to break.

However, “yes, but…” leaves you stuck in one place, disempowered.

I am not suggesting that you deny how you are feeling, or to pretend that getting motivated is easy. It’s not. What I would like to do is to suggest some ways to begin to understand your “yes, but” and to understand what’s getting in your own way.

I have started asking my clients to replace the “yes, but” with “yes, and.” While “yes, but” closes the door to possibilities, “Yes, and” opens the door to action. Here are some examples:

“Yes, and…I am afraid that I might fail.”

“Yes, and… I’m not sure how to get started.”

“Yes, and… I’m too tired… sad… scared… anxious… to do things differently.”

“Yes, and… I need to break the job down into smaller steps.”

“Yes, and… I didn’t know it would be this hard.”

“Yes, and… I need a little more time.”

“Yes, and… I am going to need more support if I am going to make this happen.”

Do you see the difference? When you think about barriers to change in terms of “Yes, and” you also open the door to identifying how you might be getting in your own way. And then you can then start working on what to do. In other words, you move from being stuck to getting started.

So, the next time you feel that “yes, but” about to stop you in your tracks, try replacing it with “yes, and.” In a way, you are making friends with your “yes, but” by taking the time to learn why that “but” is there and what you can do to overcome it. In the process, you’re making friends with yourself, accepting your fears, lack of readiness, need for support, lack of preparation, need for more guidance, or whatever else stands between you and your progress toward your goal.

Here’s another way to look at that “Yes, but” that keeps you stuck. When you tell yourself “yes, but” you are saying that the solution is outside of yourself, and out of your control. That’s like saying that once all the TV sets in the world disappear, you’ll stop isolating yourself in front of the TV all day, or that once other people stay off the sidewalks, you’ll be more comfortable going for a walk, or that when pizza is finally outlawed, you’ll be able to stop eating it so much.

See the pattern here? “Yes, but” is disempowering. It leaves you a victim of circumstance. “Yes, and” empowers you to look at what YOU can do to begin to incorporate change into your life, one step at a time.

“Yes, and” doesn’t solve your problem. What it does do is open you up to solutions.

What are your “yes, buts?” And your “yes, ands?” Give this technique a try and let me know how it works.

25 replies

Pynetree 2011-03-09 13:00:50 -0600 Report

…Yes, AND I am going to try this one word change!

The "Yes(& that other word)" start most of my mental, self-defeating, messages… about why I'm going to eat ice cream at nite when my husband does, and why I'm not going to exercise now, and how a bit more won't be too much.
I'll let you know how it goes…

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-03-10 12:00:49 -0600 Report

Hey Pynetree. Yes, those self-defeating messages can really keep you stuck. Definitely please let me know how it goes. Don't be too hard on yourself. This is a process. I'll be standing by...

Dev 2011-03-09 12:39:50 -0600 Report

Hello Dr. Gary, I read this post yesterday and didn't think much of it. What difference does it make changing one word I thought.

In the morning, I was stressed out about my research and had hit a wall and suddenly my thinking shifted from 'but' to 'and'. I was thinking I need to write this paper but I have no idea how to. Then suddenly I thought - I need to write this paper and I don't know how to go about it, and I am scared to start so what can I do about it? Then I thought about what I could read, the people I could talk to and other ways of enlisting help.

It was an amazing shift. When I write it and look at the words 'but' and 'and' I am still amazed how much difference it made from my feeling stuck, like I hit a wall to my accepting the problem and finding the ways to go forward.

It is not exactly about diabetes, but I wanted to share it anyways.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-03-10 11:59:42 -0600 Report

Wow, amazing. What an excellent story! Thanks a lot for sharing it. You hit it exactly -- once you open yourself up to possible solutions, you can get yourself on track toward your goal. You stop spinning your wheels and get traction. It applies to all areas of life. Thanks again. You made my day!

CaliKo 2011-03-08 13:23:38 -0600 Report

Thanks Dr. Gary, this sounds like a good technique. I'm going to start listening for those 'yes, buts'

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-03-08 16:38:02 -0600 Report

If you are like most of us, including me, you will probably be surprised how often they pop up. Hope you are doing well!

MewElla 2011-03-08 13:03:39 -0600 Report

Very interesting…I think we can all improve our patterns…it's just taking those small steps until before you know it…goalie!!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-03-08 16:37:34 -0600 Report

Exactly. Once you understand what the pattern is, then you can start to see what you need to do to undo it and create a more healthy one in it's place. Thanks!

realsis77 2011-03-08 10:54:45 -0600 Report

Wow that's so true and I'm guilty as charged! Its very hard to try and change old habbits, espically old habbits of self talk. We sometimes are our own worst enemy! Its a concious decision we must make to stop the old patters and start empowering our selfs! What a powerful post! Its making yourself open up and actually be honest with our selfs that can be difficult! We often are our only road block in many situations! The biggest battles can be with self! I'm going to give it a try and try not to block my own self from achieving certain goals! It will take some practice and some honesty with self. Thank you for the post it was just what I needed to hear!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-03-08 16:41:59 -0600 Report

HI! You are absolutely right. We are so often our own worst enemies. Not because we want to be mean to ourselves but because, as you said so well, we get caught up in patterns of behavior that are familiar, even if uncomfortable, and we avoid change. Pushing that yes, but aside and replacing it with yes, and opens you up to new possibilities. Go easy on yourself, ask yourself what's getting in the way of change, and then use that self-talk to encourage yourself to get started on tackling something new. It's important not to beat yourself up. It's a process. Take care!

realsis77 2011-03-09 09:17:31 -0600 Report

Great advice! Thank you so much! I'll keep trying! :) I always love your posts! They always hit home!

sNerTs1 2011-03-07 22:39:11 -0600 Report

I swear to you that you were at my last consult with my dietitian!! I just saw her last week and heard myself say "I can give you a bajillion reasons why and not one good one at that" We all have excuses but who are we really hurting when we use them? US.

Take more pride in your self worth, YOU ARE WORTH IT and take control of YOU so that you can be better for a very long time. If you feel good, you help others around you feel good. Its a total "pay it forward" trip! Its a win win situation.

Thank you for posting this, I saw me right in there, smack dab in the middle or upper or lower oh heck I read me throughout that whole thing. Dang you! LOL

She gave me an awesome exercise routine, and ideas on how to eat correctly and why it is important to eat on a schedule and it all totally made sense that I did a huge YES AND … when I left. I have followed her suggestions so far and I feel good, dang good.

My example of the YES BUT for you ~ I am so not hungry in the mornings so I felt it wasn't important to eat until I was hungry. Yes but I'm just not hungry so why should I eat!! "Perfectly reasonable" is what she said to me. BUT, if you wait until you are hungry, you will overeat and feed the hunger. If you eat on a schedule, you don't get that huge hunger pang and need to feed, you level out and find that you are at a constant happiness in your tummy not to mention it keeps your sugars at a level that is maintainable and you are less likely to have sugar highs and lows. Makes more sense than my yes but now … =)

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-03-08 16:31:31 -0600 Report


I love this! Thanks a lot.

And you added an important message. You are definitely worth it. Figure out what's holding you back, find a solution, and move forward in your life. Pull yourself out of the rut and be the best possible you.

I'm really glad this is working for you.

And a perfect example of a yes, but. It's like making a compromise with yourself and getting a big pay-back.

Thanks a lot for adding your own experience and wisdom. Have a great week!


sNerTs1 2011-03-09 21:51:13 -0600 Report

Thanks to you for starting this and… DANG you yet for writing about me LOL! I hope you have a great week and weekend as well Doc =)

GabbyPA 2011-03-07 22:30:24 -0600 Report

Oh my, the light bulb just went on! This is so true and so incredibly simple to change with one word. This is true in every part of my life as well. I am going to be excuse free. Thank you for this outlook, I never saw it this way before.

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