Have you ever been the target of a “but”? You’ve asked a question and the person has said yes, but you sense there is a “but” coming. It can be in response to a request or a discussion point. You think you have success, but there is a qualifier coming – one that may negate all the sucess you currently feel. You think you have someone recruited but then they bring up conditions to their acceptance which may cause you to retract the offer. They may agree with your debate point, but qualify their agreement so as to not really accepting your point at all.

This may be a way to make a counterpoint. People do it all the time. Think of the non-apology. They say they are sorry for what they did, but then proceed to make excuses for their behavior. That is a rationalization, not an apology. They might also say, ‘I”m sorry if what I said/did hurt you” or “I’m sorry if you were hurt by my words or actions”. Nope. The true apology is accepting that you did something wrong and it did hurt someone and that you are sorry for hurting the person.

Another way this comes up is when people cast a false equivalency. While saying ‘yes, what that person did was wrong” they try to point out someone else’s error as just as bad. We even do it to ourselves – we say yes and then denigrate ourselves. “Yes, I can do that, but I don’t know if I will be any good” “Yes, I will help you, but I don’t really know why you asked me”

I have participated in a icebreaker/mixer activity called “yes and”. It’s a version of a group telling a story, building it person by person. It starts with someone saying a few lines and then each person is supposed to add to it with “yes, and”. It might be as simple as “once upon a time there was a farmer boy taking his cow to sell in the village” The next person might say “yes, and he met a strange fellow who offered him some magic beans for his cow” Sounds like a certain fairy tale. In this way it builds the story.

The point is that we should always let our yes be yes and our no be no. It’s okay to have a condition on accepting but if we have too many we might as well just say no. If we don’t agree with someone’s point, just say so, instead of pretending to agree. It’s as if the yes, but is just buying time for a response.

And what if you’re not sure about something or not sure how your should respond? Is there a place for doubt or not knowing? Yes, indeed, and we will end the week with that.