Interesting Three Letter Words

11 Sep 2010

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Three words interest me in particular, they are YES, BUT and AND.

To explore these words, I use an exercise called “Yes, and…“.

We start off by discussing the following terms:

  • Turning Against (which equates to blocking entirely)
  • Turning Away (which equates to committing, begrudgingly or with conditions)
  • Turning Towards (which equates to enthusiastically committing)

Example 1

Offer: Let’s go to the beach

Selection of responses:

  • Turning Against: No, I hate sand (totally blocked, nowhere to go from here)
  • Turning Away: OK, but only if we can go by car and be home for the 6 o’clock news (conditions!)
  • Turning Towards: Yes, and let’s get an ice cream on the way! (notice how this response commits to the offer and adds something to enhance it)

Example 2

Offer: Let’s paint this wall

Selection of responses:

  • Turning Away: Yes, but only if we paint it red
  • Turning Towards: Yes, and let’s paint it red

In this example, the response is almost the same except for the words BUT and AND. If we use the word BUT, we appear to be taking some power or positivity away from the person’s offer/idea/suggestion/request. It’s important to recognise that sometimes our responses are delivered in a negative way and this can hinder our progress. If we use the word AND, we appear to be adding something to the person’s idea. We are saying yes, committing and offering our contribution to enhance their idea.


I usually ask the group to go away from the workshop and keep considering whether they could introduce an AND instead of a BUT in more of their communication.

Try it yourself and see the difference it makes to the way you feel and the way others respond.

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