Yeah, but…

“Yeah, but…” is a conversation killer.

It suppresses emotions, creativity, and an opportunity to understand the other person better.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve completely switched myself off during a conversation because the other person said, “yeah, but….” Why? Because that’s the point when a conversation transforms into a monologue in which the other person has to the point of view and wants to prove that it’s the right one.

Likewise, over the past 20 years, I have had the privilege of working with several supervisors, managers, and leaders who were great at turning people off with their feedback. I for sure don’t remember a single significant thing they said about me before blurting out a “yeah, but…” in a one-on-one or team setup. All I remember is how I felt after the conversation.

And being a researcher, I pretty much know that’s a universal feeling. Most people don’t remember any good things they heard before the “yeah, buts.” Not because they don’t want to hear anything negative about themselves but probably how the other person framed the whole conversation.

Most leaders and managers suck at framing feedback the right way. They don’t understand how important it is to communicate a different point of view while acknowledging the context and respecting the other person’s perspective. All it takes is a genuine curiosity to know more about that person in front of you.

One of the most potent approaches I’ve found is to ask, “tell me more,” and use questions to clarify my understanding of them. Not the other way around. Enforcing my thoughts and viewpoints isn’t as crucial as making others feel heard.

You might still disagree with what they’re saying, but at least you now have a better understanding of where they’re coming from.

Sometimes opening yourself up to the other’s point of view enriches your experience as a person and consequently the quality of the discussion. The result is that both parties leave the conversation with a solid understanding of each other’s perspectives.

Could this be easier said than done? Absolutely! As with all things in life, it takes helluva courage, discipline, and humility to open yourself up to another person’s perspective.

Thankfully, it’s a learnable skill.

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