We all know how important the word “no” is in our vocabulary. It’s easy to understand that we have to say no to certain obligations, people, and need to learn how to say it with confidence. Easy to understand, at least.
But what about the word “yes”?
Yes is a liberating word, or at least, it can be. Perhaps a little too often we use the word “yes” in the place of “no”. My advice here is that most of your affirmative responses should be said with the idea in your head that if you wanted, you could shout it from the rooftops.
Your response has no reason to be anything other than confident. Of course, there are situations where you know your answer should be and will be yes but you aren’t too happy about it and that’s fine.
But what about the word “yes” in normal speech?
Well, how familiar are you with the phrase “Yeah, but…”?
I don’t like using this phrase. In fact, I’ve tried my best to eradicate it from my speech because it might sound positive but boy, is this phrase anything but that. The phrase is an excuse. A linguistic set up to allow us to fail, back out, or see something negative. And it’s not the “yes” part. It’s the “but”.
So…what do I mean when I say, “Yes, and”?
This’ll be a quick one.
Revolutionary idea. When you are agreeing with someone, something, or going back and forth you don’t have to say “yeah, but”. It comes across as whiny and as if you have no solid ground underneath your opinions, decisions, and mental state.
As a kid, we heard our parents chide us for using the word “but” and there’s good reason for it. “But” is a special word and I’m about to say it so many times that it no longer looks or sounds normal to you but that’s okay. What “but” does is rip apart whatever is in front of it. Tear it to shreds.
It’s a nice day out but way too humid.
Here, the “but” and what came after it cancels out the first part. It is a nice day! Except that it isn’t because the humidity ruins it. So, when we say “yes, but” we aren’t saying yes. We’re saying no, here’s why.
And that’s important to recognize.
Understanding why we can’t say no is an entire article in and of itself but for now, let’s just recognize that we aren’t saying no, that we aren’t saying yes with confidence, and that we are setting up excuses for ourselves.
How can we fix it?
1. Stop saying YES if you mean NO
Under this bullet, it’s also important to remember that “I’m not sure” is an acceptable answer. People might not like that answer very much but that shouldn’t matter. We can’t know everything. We can’t keep our whole schedule in our heads. For that, we can say, “I’ll get back to you when I’m by my calendar.” And in a discussion, saying, “You know, I don’t know” isn’t a sign of weakness or stupidity at all. It’s just showing that you are intelligent enough to admit that you don’t know and that’s fine.
Really though, we have got to stop saying “yes” when we mean “no”. If you don’t agree with something, can’t do something, or want to say “no”…say “no”! This seems like it should be common sense but we end up not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings or step on any toes. The word “no” isn’t inherently a nasty one. Sometimes the delivery of the word is nasty, but not the word itself. Approach it gently. Phrases like “I can see where you’re coming from. I think…” or “That’s interesting. I tend to believe…” or “I don’t think I’ll be able to (attend, make it, babysit, work that day, etc)”. It doesn’t have to be “No.” It can be though.
2. Substitute “Yes, but” for “Yes, and”
Change up your phrase just a little bit! Shifting from “yes, but” to “yes, and” is a small change, sure, but it’s well worth it. It shifts your attitude from having to give yourself an excuse to voicing two statements. It also lets you see how much you use the word “but” and maybe why you do.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember this but we have words and we have been using them for years and years so hopefully, we know what they mean. What we might not be aware of it what each tiny word like “but” can mean for us. If you’re in a discussion, if you’re being asked about committing to an obligation, just relax. We have our words to help us out. Talk through it. You don’t have to commit to anything. “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer. And use the word “and”. Try it out, see how it feels, see what it tells you about yourself.
We have words. We know how to speak. Now let’s use them instead of letting ourselves become wracked with worry over what the right answer is. No one will really care. And if they do, you have your words to help explain what you meant. Pretty cool, right?