04 Jun The Ol’ “Yes, but” Move
You’ve done it yourself. You and someone close to you are having an argument. You realize that you need to act like you’re listening to what they are saying in order to get a chance to make your point. You sit there with a concerned look and nodding head while actually planning the counter-attack. When they finish, you say with feigned empathy, “I hear what you are saying, but.…”
This is a code phrase and we all know what it means. “Now that you have had the chance to say what you want to say, I am now going to explain the truth to you.” What makes this move so good is that it couches itself in terms of actually listening to what the other person has had to say. Brilliant! Brilliant, that is, unless you are the one on the receiving end of the exchange. Then you feel ignored, demeaned, dismissed and condescended to.
Now, I get why we do it and am certain that even I, a highly trained and seasoned professional communicator, employ the move quite often with my wife, kids, and others. I suspect I am not even aware all the times I do it but I guarantee you that it registers every time someone does it to me!
How about giving this a try? The next time you are having an argument with someone close to you, listen to them, show concern on your face and in your body language, and after they have finished, do this. Repeat back to them the content, intent, and emotion of what they have said to you and ask if you have that right. When you get it right say something like, “That’s a great point. That’s a take that I really need to hear.” Then don’t say anything else! No “but”. No nothing. The really good news is that if you have a great relationship with this person, you will certainly have the opportunity later on to say what you think and feel. Further, if you have offered them the grace of really listening, they might just do the same for you. What a novel idea! Or you can just keep on employing the ol’ “yes, but” move and watching them just get more and more riled. Your choice but….