How to Use "Yes, and..." & "No, but..." for Negotiation and Engaging Conversations
Updated: Feb 28
Today, we’re gonna talk about 2 strategies. Strategy number 1, Yes, and… and strategy number 2 No, but.
And the reason I want to start with these 2 strategies is that they are simple, quick, and have a huge impact on the way you come across when you communicate. So it’s a quick win for you to start using them as soon as possible.
So let’s first talk about the Yes, and strategy.
Now here’s the thing. The word but is a word you need to pay attention to, because when used incorrectly, this short little word blocks ideas, and creates defensiveness and opposition. On the other hand, the word AND expands on ideas and it’s a word that supports collaboration. And this idea comes from the world of Improv. There’s a game called yes, and… in this game, a group of participants is preparing a party together and each person makes a suggestion for a thing to have at the party and the following person says yes, and… and they add something new. So the way it looks is something like this: Person A says – Let’s have an air balloon at the party and the following person says – yes, and let's have live music, and so on. And that way the conversation seems open to ideas and people are very engaged. Now, then there is a change and the participants start using yes, but… so one person would say let’s have air balloons, and the following person will say, yes, but, let’s have live music. So, first, they connected their ideas using Yes and, and later using yes, but… And the participants then evaluate how they felt during the game. What they say is that when using yes, but, the conversation seems to be very closed and not feeling good, not generating new ideas. And on the other hand, if they use yes, and, the feeling is very open, very creative, and generates many ideas. Basically, the participants are feeling much better in this situation. It's playful, fun, and it's creative.
You can ask someone to play this game with you and see for yourself the difference. You will see very quickly how these words change the atmosphere in the conversation and the level of openness.
Now, let’s take an example from real life. So let’s imagine that you and your partner are discussing your plans for Sunday. Let’s say you want to go to the beach to relax. Now, your partner wants to stay home and do some work around the house.
So he says, "Let’s stay home because I wanted to work in the backyard."
And you respond: "Yes, but, it should be sunny so we should go to the beach." Or you can say - "Yes, and it should be sunny so we should go to the beach."
Can you feel the difference? In the first example, if you use the word but it sounds like you’re not really open to any discussion, you basically negated what your partner said. And the way he might feel is dismissed. It might seem like you don’t acknowledge his preference and are pushing your idea. In the second example, on the other hand, you expand on their proposal, you just add a new one and, you stay open to more ideas. Now, what will be the result? So if you use yes and – you’re open for conversation and for more ideas. And the final decision doesn’t have to be we either stay home or we go to the beach. We can explore different options without dismissing anyone’s preference. Often times we feel like there are just 2 options but actually, the options are endless so why limit ourselves? So in this situation, you both could go to the beach and then work around the house, or you could go to the beach and your partner stay home or might realize that actually you also want to stay home. So by using YES, AND we stay open to many ideas and we can explore the best one which will create win-win solutions.
Now, if you’re negotiating for anything you must remember this tactic. Always connect with yes and when negotiating otherwise you limit yourself and lose a big potential to create win-win results.
So let’s imagine that you’ re selling a product to a potential customer. And they say:
"The price is really high."
What would you be tempted to respond, if you were not a good seller? You might say something like: "No, that’s not true, the price is competitive."
If you were a little better seller, you would say:
"Yes, but we offer you much more than the competition."
And if you were a great negotiator, you would say:
"Yes, and we offer you an extra guarantee."
So what this does is it doesn’t put you in defensive mode. Instead you agree with your partner and you offer more.
Let's have look at another example, also from the business:
You’re talking to your business partner and you’re telling them:
"The sales are great, but, we need to work more on marketing."
Now compare to this: "The sales are great, AND we need to work more on marketing."
So which one will be more successful and strategic for you to use if you want to sound more influential and create a positive atmosphere that generates ideas?
Now here’s the thing: your suggestion might be amazing however if you connect it with the word but, immediately you will create a certain resistance in your partner. And this is subconscious. They’re not like – they used the word but, I will be defensive – NO. It will be subconscious but they and you both will sense certain resistance when talking if you use the word but. And let me tell you one thing. No one likes to be told what to do. So it's really strategic to be careful with the word but and replace it with the word AND. Why? Because as we’ve seen – yes and means agreement and expansion of ideas. With yes and, you acknowledge whatever your partner said and just add to that.
Also here, sometimes my clients ask me – can we use the word however, is it better? And my answer is NO – don’t use the word however either. It has the same effect as the word but. What this word means, is opposition, and it can almost always be replaced by the word and.
Alright so let’s say you decided to stop using the word but and replace it by yes, and. How can you go about that?
Now, here’s the thing. Most of us have been using the word but automatically, our entire life. We’ve probably been overusing it. So it’s a pretty strong habit. So if you decide now, that from now forward you will always replace but by yes and – that’s a new habit that you will need to create and it will take some time. You need to first unlearn the habit of using but and then learn a new habit of using yes and. And it’s totally worth it. The benefits of this slight change are tremendous.
So this is how it will work for you.
First, start paying attention to your written communication. Because when we write we have more time to think about what we write so there’s a better chance to pick the word but and replace it by yes, and. You will be surprised how often you use this even in your emails and messages.
When it comes to speaking, the first step is becoming conscious of this word in your speech. So you will say it, you will say the word but, automatically, out of habit, and a moment after you pronounce it, you will catch yourself and say to yourself – "OK, now I just used the word but." That’s great! Congratulations because you just became conscious of this habit. That’s the first step. This will definitely take a few days or even weeks.
In the second step, you will now be ready to replace this word. You will be talking and you will want to say the word but, but you will realize it before saying and, you will stop just for a second and consciously replace it by yes, and or just and. Now, this is a huge step.
From there you start building the new habit, and soon you will notice that you connect your sentence with and automatically. This will be a huge win.
So after a few weeks, once you've built this new habit of using yes and, you will see how your communication with your partner, your family, your boss anyone will be more open and enjoyable.
Now, let's talk about another strategy, which is No, but…
Once you start using the word but consciously and stop overusing it you’re ready to re-introduce it in your vocabulary. Now, you will start using it strategically with the No, but model.
So how does this model work? Remember this: Whatever follows the word but, you’re giving it more weight, and importance. The word but is incredibly strong and it has the power to emphasize what follows after it. So if I have two sentences connected with BUT, the stronger message will be the one that follows this word.
So let’s take an example and it will be clear. Let’s say your child asks you: "Can I go to the bar with my friends and stay the whole night?" And your reply is of course not. And there are two ways to put it using the word. So you can say:
"No, darling, you can stay with your friends here, but you can't go to the bar."
"No, darling, you can't go to the bar but, you can stay with your friends here."
So what happened here is that we have two sentences, the meaning of the first one is rather negative – saying you can't, and the meaning of the other sentence is positive, you can stay here. So I will ask myself, which part do I want to emphasize? I want to emphasize the positive part to be more influential. By doing that, the overall feeling of my response will be more positive because I’m emphasizing the positive sentence that follows the word but.
So you easily remember this strategy as No… but. So you will first decline, you will be clear, you will follow by but, and add a positive statement.
This strategy works really well in this type of situation when you need to decline a request. It’s a known strategy for customer service professionals. And you can also use it when talking to your clients. So let’s say you’re speaking with a client and they are asking for something which you can't do. So now is a good time to use the no but strategy.
Let’s say you have a client who’s asking for a refund for their money but what happened with the product was not your fault and you’re not going to refund them. So it’s strategic for you to be clear and state clearly that you will not refund them, but you also want to show empathy. So you will use the no but strategy.
First, you will state clearly NO, then you will ad BUT and add an empathy statement.
It will sound something like this:
"We can’t give you a refund, but we understand that you’re looking for the right product for your situation. You can check out our website and look for the right product."
This way, you strategically used the word but to emphasize the positive statement, the empathy statement.
All right amazing charming communicator. I encourage you to try these 2 strategies. Yes, and, and No, but.
First, replace the word but by the word and in the first stage. This will create open communication and will create many opportunities for win-win outcomes.
Then after a few weeks, once it became a habit for you to replace the word but by the word and, you can go to phase two.
In phase two, start using the word but strategically. Remember that whatever follows the word but you’re giving it more weight and importance.
Remember the strategy No, but, when you need to decline a request.
Let me know how it went for you, how long time it took for you to build the new habit. And how you’re applying the yes and, and no but strategies to your communication and what results you’re getting thanks to these.
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