yes, but …


As my husband addressed my eldest, I saw her instinctively stiffen in a defensive stance on the stairs. He barely finished his sentence and she jumped in with that oft-repeated phrase, ‘Yes, but …’.

He cut her off before she could continue with this incisive statement. ‘”Yes, but” … actually means no.’

This conversation stuck with me. Challenging me how much I say, ‘Yes, but,’  in my life.

‘Yes, I know I should exercise but I don’t have the time.’

‘Yes, I really should watch my emotional eating, but I’m just so stressed.’

‘Yes, I should learn to sew my kids clothes, but think of all the paraphernalia I’d need to buy.’

You see the amazing thing about ‘Yes, but’, is that it is an acknowledgement of a need for change. Yet, it has an inbuilt excuse to allow myself to get out of it. It is not a yes. It is a no that sounds like a yes.

I need to start picking up on my Yes, but statements, and like my daughter understand that they are actually a no.

With that knowledge I then have two options. The first is to evaluate how much I genuinely want to change. Alternatively, I may need to acknowledge that I don’t actually want to do the thing I think I should do. In both these scenarios my language needs to change, and the but needs to be replaced with so.

‘Yes I know I should exercise, so I am going to get my diary and schedule in the times for this week.’

‘Yes, I need to watch my emotional eating, so I am not going to allow trigger foods in the house.’

‘Let’s face it I really have no desire to learn to sew, so I am happy to pay to get my clothes altered by others.’

The key word in Yes, but sentences is actually should. Should denotes expectations. They may come from society, our own family background, or even our own expectations of what life would look like.

So I have some strategies that help me tackle the shoulds in the yes, but statements in my life.

1. I need to know my priorities. I have taken some time to examine my life goals. And as a words person I find it useful to have them written down in a prominent space. This allows me to be sure of when I am being influenced by others, and when I need to stand in my own voice.

2. I need to stop comparison. The absolute honest truth is I am never going to sew my kids’ clothes. So I need to stop thinking that is what motherhood looks like.  And celebrate my friend who is a wonderful seamstress without comparison.

3. I need to totally own my yeses and my nos. This often means I need to take time to think before responding. Sometimes postponing my reply to a later time. I need to make sure that yes fits my priorities, my time and my family’s needs.

Yes, but is such a cop-out phrase because it is a fence straddler. It is neither a clear yes nor a clear no. So I am working on letting my yes be yes and my no be no.

Join me for the journey,


About Jodie McCarthy

Jodie is a writer, speaker, poet and mother. An unashamed words girl who writes to process the myriad of experiences of life. In her writing and on her blog she investigates the journey of life: the beautiful; the painful; the everyday; and the mundane. She has a heart for encouraging women on their life journey, particularly when that journey traverses the harder places of grief and pain. On the days when she is not writing you will find her in her kitchen, usually licking the beaters from a chocolate cake. You can find her books and follow her journey at