“Yes, but”

Ah, the “Yes, but” game. A game that everyone plays and everyone loses. Who would play such a game? We all do. It’s a popular game played all around the world. The rules are simple. At least 2 players are required, and it’s a good family game too. Player one makes the first move with a statement, usually lamenting a painful situation in their life. Player two then responds with a “useful” piece of advice. Player one then responds “Yes, but that won’t work because…  Player two then offers another piece of advice, and player once again responds “Yes, but”. Play continues in this manner until one or both players gives up in frustration or is too tired to go on. Sound familiar? I don’t want to admit the countless times I’ve played this game.

If I really want to stop playing “Yes, but” I need to catch myself before I get sucked in. The problem? “ Yes, but.” is so seductive for both players. We think this time will be different, the problem will be solved and both players declared a winner. I think there may be several ways  to stop the vicious cycle of “Yes, but.”  and all require being aware of the set up to the game. I love to give advice and problem solve, and though this is not a fatal flaw, I can attempt to solve other peoples problems when they need to problem solve on their own. If I’m giving someone information about their problem it’s so easy for me to assume that they will take my information and run with it. If I’m honest my “information” is sometimes given with a judgment about other’s inability to inform themselves. I am a caring and compassionate person and I truly want to help those I love, and sometimes my loved ones (and I) really don’t want help because we don’t intend to “do” anything different, we just want to be listened too.

Now go back and read the previous paragraph. Notice anything? With the exception of naming the “Yes, but.” game I did not use the word “but”! This is actually kinda hard to do. Try it for yourself. This experiment demonstrates another way to end the “Yes, but.” game: change the game to “Yes, and.” Player one will have a hard time simply resisting suggestions and Player two will be less likely to keep pushing and pushing their advice, and instead seek more information. It could look more like this:Player one: “I want to lose weight and nothing I’ve tried works.” Player two: “What have you tried?” Player one: “I tried the banana diet and that didn’t work for me.” I know this may seem like a small difference but “but” (!) is a more loaded word because it  casts doubts on what came before it, and does not contribute to any solution. 

It’s a slippery slope to  “what-about-ism”— “Maybe we did that, but look what you guys did? “ This blame  game has no winners and zero problem solving. This is a favorite game of politicians. When spouses start the blame game, escalation is almost inevitable. When we have years of relationship history, there is so much “blame” ammunition to use. This duel of blame does not have any chance of a positive resolution for either party. “Yes, but” is a  long and losing game . Listen to yourself, be aware of how you ask for help or respond to requests for help. No matter the game, who wants to be a loser?  “Yes, but”….

Snail Mail

Snail mail looks pretty speedy about now!  Put your mail in an envelope, make sure there is an address on it, slap a stamp on it and put it in a mail box. And wait, and wait some more, for the letter to arrive at its destination. I screwed up my email accounts yesterday and snail mail looked pretty attractive for awhile. I could send emails, but not receive emails on one account, and vice versa on another, and fixing this necessitated a great deal of swearing. I know this should be easy, but sometimes trying to communicate with my iPad is “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” or “That is not logical”. Kudos to you if you can name the movies or TV shows these lines are from and the famous actors who said them. Boomers should know!

I can email, text, FaceTime, Zoom and message family and friends. I can also call or leave a voice mail if I need to. With caller id I can even see who is calling before I answer (or not). You would think with all of this technological support that there  is no “…failure to communicate.”    There is some  thought that we don’t know how to talk in person anymore, and that there is no substitute for face to face and physical  contact. I believe there is definitely some truth to this, but I have to point out that families who gather together physically may actually be far away from each other because of differing political and religious beliefs. The old adage of never talk politics or religion with family has never been as true as it is now.

The RNC has determined that the insurrection on January 6, 2021 was “legitimate political discourse” Discourse: the use of WORDS to exchange thoughts and ideas. There were some words exchanged on Jan 6, including many expletives  and “Hang Mike Pence”! Ok, these are words and they do present “thoughts and ideas”, but the majority of the communication and exchange on January 6  was violent and harmful behaviors by Trump supporters. I doubt the 150 police officers injured on that day would say that getting beat up was “ legitimate political discourse”. The initial reaction to the events of January 6th  by Members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, was not this is “legitimate political discourse”, it was fear for their lives and disgust at the events of the day. Unfortunately the communication from the MAGA base and the MAGA King was that things were not the way they seemed. Naming insurrectionists “patriots” was just the beginning of new “alternate facts” being presented. And we all know how the “Big Lie” lives on….

This is where I should share my great wisdom about how to communicate with our loved ones,  our enemies or those we strongly disagree with. I would if I could, but I’m pretty much out of ideas. How do I (and we) stop being triggered by opposing viewpoints from the “other side”? I know a good start would be to stop pouring gasoline on the fire and dial down the rhetoric and blur the divide between the sides. I’m thinking that talking about it may need to come after we 

begin to see the other as more like ourselves. Playing tug of war with the Donkeys and Elephants mixed on both sides might put rancor aside for a bit by the desire to win. Getting people with opposing views to laugh together might also soften the sharp edges. Other than gathering the “big kids” on the playground or at funny movies, how do we get positive feelings to reach across the great divide? I wish I knew.