Fly on the Wall

Goal: Increase your ability to detect yes-buts

Estimated time: 5­–10 minutes (at various times during your daily life)

Look for opportunities to listen for yes-buts in contentious conversations that don’t directly involve you. This may happen in a meeting when your coworkers start arguing over the latest budget numbers, or in a store when you overhear children protesting about the candy or toys they’re not allowed to buy. Perhaps the easiest way to find a yes-but conversation is to turn on the television. From confrontational interviews and political debates to petty arguments on sitcoms and reality shows, there’s no shortage of polite (and impolite) fights on the small screen. See how many yes-buts you can catch, and notice what kinds of effects they have on the conversations where they occur. What’s the impact on people’s ability to make decisions, solve problems, or understand each other’s point of view? When do they seem to help someone achieve his or her goals? When do they get in the way?

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