“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”….

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