The Power of Yes

There’s a vast difference between the type of communication where people are trying to win or prove themselves right, and the type where people are trying to find the truth or the best way forward.

Unfortunately, too much of our daily communication is of the former type. While the other person is talking, we’re too often thinking “No, you’re wrong” or “No, you’re missing the point” or “No, you’re overlooking what’s most important.”

Even when we say “Yes, but…”, we’re really saying “No.”

I’m here to tell you that communication usually goes much better when you tap into the power of “Yes.”

If you want to verify for yourself the positive power of “Yes” in everyday communication, try an experiment: Next time you’re in a conversation, spend a full five minutes or more saying and meaning a warm, welcoming “Yes” to everything everyone else says, insofar as possible.

(Sometimes, unfortunately, you’ll have to say “No,” as when a person asks for the impossible or seeks to overstep the bounds of what’s reasonable or appropriate. For purposes of this experiment, when this happens say your “No,” and then start the timer to begin another five minutes of saying only “Yes.”)

You’ll discover that saying “Yes” transforms the conversation into:

  • An easier, friendlier, energizing instead of draining experience.
  • A positive sharing of facts, views, ideas, and information instead of a battle.
  • An exploration of possibilities, opportunities, and potential.
  • A collaboration instead of a confrontation.
  • In certain circumstances, a very persuasive experience for the person you’re “yes”ing.

Sometimes a simple “Yes” is enough to hold up your end of the conversation. Other times, however, you’ll need to add something more.


One of the easiest additions to the plain “Yes” is a simple speculation, along the lines of:

  • I wonder if it would be possible to….
  • We might be able to…
  • What would happen if we…
  • Who says we can’t…

The purpose of this speculation is not to definitively suggest or plan a next step, but rather to open up the conversation to include new possibilities.

There’ll be time later to see if these speculative ideas make sense or can possibly pan out. For now, adding a speculation to your “Yes” can turn a conversation toward an entirely new direction.


Adding an item from a wish list to your simple “Yes” can boost the energy and creativity in a conversation. The general formula for adding an item from a wish list is something like: “Yes, and wouldn’t it be great if….”

You can finish that remark with a wide range of beneficial possibilities, most often from among those that people have previously discussed, such as:

  • “We could get a celebrity on board.”
  • “We had enough money to fully fund this project.”
  • “We had so-and-so’s permission or approval or assistance.”
  • “We had more time, or more people.”
  • “We could gather the information we’re still missing.”

Adding an item from a wish list doesn’t guarantee you’ll get to the next step, but it helps avoid the tendency to quit too soon.

Obstacle Removals

Akin to the benefits of adding an item from an idealized wish list, adding the removal of an actual, tangible obstacle helps redirect people’s thoughts, hopes, and energies toward a positive result that would otherwise seem out of reach. It is a great way to extend a conversation that seems to have encountered an insurmountable road-block or disagreement.

The idea is to say something like: “Yes, and it might just be possible to….”. Finish off this thought with suggestions such as:

  • “Prevent the Warp Core from exploding.” (For you Star Trek fans.)
  • “Win the general election.”
  • “Find the money for the new roof we need.”
  • “Rent a hall big enough for our event.”

Many times, an obstacle seems more insurmountable than it really is. Suggesting there might be a way to remove the obstacle generally frees up a lot of thinking and changes the dynamic of the conversation to a more positive one.

Although most of us spend too much time in head-butting or confrontational conversations, you’ll find it’s not all that difficult to flip the mental and emotional switches that allow for more “Yes”-oriented communications. 

In fact, the more often you practice this “Yes, and…” approach to communication, the more natural it feels and the easier it becomes.

The result will be higher levels of productivity and success in both your work and your life

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