Kerri Sackville has learnt to say yes rather than no all the time


My grandmother died of Alzheimer’s before I learnt the technique, but “yes, and” isn’t just for people with dementia. It can work with any person whose reality is different to yours and who is unlikely to ever change their mind.


For most of my life, I automatically shared my opinions with anyone who shared theirs with me. Recently, however, I’ve been trying to recognise when the other person isn’t open to different points of view. When my teenage daughter is tired and grumpy and ranting about a “lame” teacher, she isn’t interested in my perspective; she just wants to be heard. When my friend is having problems with her husband, she doesn’t want to hear that he’s probably doing his best; she wants me to listen and validate her complaints. When a stranger on the internet tells me I’m idiotic, he’s unlikely to be persuaded otherwise, so I’d be wasting my time trying to engage.

So I cheerfully “yes, and” them all.

“You poor thing,” I tell my daughter. “He does sound lame.”

“Oh dear,” I tell my friend. “That’s not good!”

“Hello!” I write to the stranger. “Thank you for your feedback!”

“No longer do I try to drag other people into my reality; instead, I accept and enter theirs.”

It makes the interactions so much smoother. It makes my life so much easier! No longer do I try to drag other people into my reality; instead, I accept and enter theirs.

Now, “yes, and” is not a technique to be used in every interaction. When I have an issue in one of my relationships, “yes, and” will merely paper over the cracks. It will help the other person to feel seen, but it won’t encourage them to entertain a different perspective or change their attitude. Sometimes, I need to have difficult conversations with the people in my life. Sometimes, I need to share my own point of view, in order for us to find a middle ground or gain a mutual understanding.


What’s more, there are times – particularly with my kids – when I simply need to explain to the other person that they are wrong. If my daughter has messed up or been rude, I am not going to “yes, and” her; I’m going to try to set her straight. If a friend or acquaintance is being racist, or sexist, or homophobic, I’m not going to “yes, and” them; I’m going to call them out as vigorously as I can.

And, finally, sometimes it’s just fun to argue! I’ve had some great debates with friends and, occasionally, I’ve managed to change their minds.

When I “yes, and” people, I give up the possibility of growth and change.

But if a person isn’t going to grow or change – if they are too stubborn, or if it’s 9pm on a school night and they are too tired – then it’s not worth having the debate. I save my energy, I preserve the relationship, and I give “yes, and” another go.

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