SF Tip #3: How to deal with Yes-buts

Jenny Clarke 2007 medHow to deal with Yes-buts

by Jenny Clarke

Do you come across “yes-butters” – people who greet a happy remark like “What a lovely day!” with the response “Yes – but the forecast is bad”, or who reply “yes – but it didn’t make any difference” when reminded about their contribution to a successful project. We all meet people like this from time to time. Sometimes, it’s hard to persevere when it seems that every constructive comment you make is batted straight back like this.

In a coaching situation, the most likely reason for this kind of response is that the “project” you’re working on hasn’t yet got a sound platform and it may be worth revisiting this. Is your coachee a customer for change – ie does he/she want something different and is he/she willing to do something about it? Are you sufficiently clear about what is wanted – and what the benefits of getting it might be – to the coachee and other people involved? Is there enough enthusiasm for the “project” to overcome the “yes-but” doubts?

Of course, some “yes-butters” seem to be contrarians for the fun of it. One of our veteran SF colleagues, Brian Cade, has a great way of dealing with people like this which he calls “colonising the negative”. So you start with “The forecast is bad” which means that they have to say “Yes -but it’s lovely now!” Or your comment “I’m not sure that that had much of an effect” provokes the response “Oh I think xx took notice and will pick up some of the ideas.”

Others respond badly to compliments and just haven’t learned how to accept them graciously (a typically British characteristic perhaps). Here, we have to curb our own enthusiasm and be sparing, specific and detailed in giving praise – but don’t give up altogether! People can get used to receiving well-targeted praise.

Jenny Clarke is a coach, facilitator, consultant and a co-director of SFWork She has wide functional experience in industry, including operational research, strategic and business planning, dealing with Government and regulatory issues, public inquiry management and administration. For more on Jenny and how SFWork can help you build progress rapidly in tough situations, visit our website.

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2 responses

  1. Hi Jenny,
    The most common “yes but” dialogues happen when the therapist/coach tries to convince the client of something or is suggesting ideas to the client that do not fit.
    Usually – in my experience – it’s both the therapist/coach that starts every sentence with “yes but”

    Warmly
    Harry

  2. Hi Mark and Jenny, This is a great tip. I’ve met some clients like this. The “Yes-Buts” come usually when we are reviewing their progress. They always find something negative to say about their progress. They want to focus on what went wrong. At that point, I have to make them aware of their pattern. I’m going to try this tip with care. Thanks!

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