Self Empowerment by Transforming a Phrase

A Self Development Technique

Yes But Transformation

Self empowerment is far more than just exchanging old words for new words. I've used the following process many, many times with my clients, who have found it to be an important approach to personal development.

I know in these days of reading articles as fast as possible, sometimes the deeper meaning is lost. So, I suggest that you spend time with this self empowerment process if you find you're not experiencing all that you want in your life. As with any technique, it needs to be practiced. Mental understanding it is only the first step.

The Popular Phrase: "Yes, but..."

The word "but" serves a valuable purpose in our language. As a part of speech, it ties two or more thoughts together to show a relationship. It limits or clarifies an idea, which can be extremely helpful. But it can also be disempowering, which is the exact opposite of self development.

I'm sure you're very familiar with the "yes, but ..." pattern of thought or speech. You've probably even done it. I know I have.

The phrase can jump out in any situation, and be helpful or not. The situation might be of little, medium, or major consequence. If it's a frequent pattern, it can really slow down the fulfillment of your heart's desires. If you notice this pattern in you, you'll find that it's much easier to practice changing the pattern in a situation that is of little consequence rather than of major consequence.

The Yes, But in You

In this Self Empowerment Technique, I'm focusing specifically on the "yes, buts" that you do all by yourself, to yourself. There's a similar experience when interacting with others that occurs when you have an idea and another person negates or contradicts the idea. Or when you respond to another person's idea with a "but" by explaining all the reasons not to let the idea flow. Or perhaps when someone says "yes" to seem polite, and follows with words that say and mean "no."

The "yes, but" dynamic with others can be as limiting or disempowering as it is when you do it yourself, because ideas tend to be blocked rather than to flow. Perhaps I'll cover that dynamic in a future article or technique. Here, though, I want to focus on the pattern in one individual, and offer some alternatives so that you can approach your own unique situation for self empowerment.

The Impact of the But on the Yes

The result of the "yes, but ..." thought or speech pattern is that the "but" negates or contradicts the "yes." Here's a simple example: "We had a wonderful vacation, but the weather was awful." Said once, this really isn't a big deal. However, if the story continues: "The food was great, but the service was terrible and the ride was scenic, but the driver was rude." Then it becomes a "yes, but" vacation.

Reporting the most recent vacation in this way devalues the vacation, and it also sets up the next vacation to have a somewhat similar response. The way you perceive a situation once, you're more likely to perceive it again, UNLESS you create an intention to perceive it differently.

Some people seem to be compelled to explain all sides of a picture, even when something didn't feel good when it was happening and doesn't feel any better in the re-telling. It's easier to catch the pattern when it shows up in speech than when it shows up in thoughts.

If you think of the "yes" as upbeat or affirmative or feeling good and you think of "but" as down or negative or feeling not-good, then the "yes, but" pattern leaves you down or negative or feeling not good.

So if you love your job but dislike your boss, when you think or speak about your job, you have a conflict. If you think or speak this way about your relationship to your job and then turn your attention to another subject, you've left the subject of your job in a negative and conflicted place. It may be honest and truthful, but it doesn't feel good. It also does nothing to improve the situation. It does not serve you, your job, your relationship with your boss, or your own personal journey of self empowerment.

Intensity or Emphasis or Details

Several interrelated factors determine the impact of the "yes, but" pattern in an individual and whether or not the pattern fosters self defeat or self empowerment. These include such dynamics as intensity, characterization and specifics of the details, whether the "yes" or the "but" has more emphasis or engagement, and how the speaker feels while speaking.

Lots of Details and Good Energy about the Yes; Small But ...
"The training program had lots of information to help me with my job, including some of the key strategies that I really need to understand to be successful. Also, I really loved the instructor's examples that brought the techniques to life, but I didn't get a chance to finish my journal."

A Series of Yes, Buts ...
"I enjoyed the training program, but the slides were so small I couldn't read them. It was like I was being given an eye exam. When the trainer told the story about his first job, I really laughed, but I just couldn't understand what he was talking about on step three of the planning process. The food was great, but the service was slow. I was really glad I got a room near the pool, but it did get a little noisy at night. All in all, it was a good experience, but I'm not sure that I really learned that much."

A Little Yes, a Big But ...
"Yeah, the training was good. I'm glad I went. But did you see all the money the company spent on this program? It's really so upsetting that they throw money away on the trinkets and extras when so many people are losing their jobs and we got minimal salary increases."

In all above three examples, the ending thought is a But -- a Little But, a Series of Buts, or a Big But. And, of course, you can easily imagine (or have said!) similar and related comments about such an event. A report might be said with joy or with bitterness; with great detail or by touching the surface; with great humor or with deep regret.

In all the examples, I have intentionally used the word "but." However, the conjunction could be another word: yet, even if, even though, except, unless, however, still, etc.

Each thought has its own intensity, energy, feeling, or vibration. When you're sensitive to how you feel, you can more easily guide your thoughts and words. You can change the pattern. The key is: Does this feel good or does it feel not-good? Another good question is: am I on a journey to self empowerment or disempowerment?

To change this pattern, it's helpful to pay attention to the energy. The "yes" has an upbeat, flowing energy; the "but" has a downward or blocking or slowing down energy. When you attune yourself to the energy, you can really feel the shift.

Transforming a Phrase

Here are two different strategies:

Self Empowerment Strategy #1
Changing the Pattern by Replacing "But" with "And"

A common suggestion for changing this pattern is to change the conjunction. If you catch the thought in time, you can say "and" instead of "but," which has a tendency to keep you moving in the same direction as the "yes" thought. That's not always true, though, because if you're speaking, usually the "but" is out of your mouth with a negation before you can add more "yes" thoughts.

Changing a "but" to an "and" is particularly effective in writing. If you're writing about a recent event or a problem, you can spot the "buts" when you re-read what you've written. Hurray for editing! This is a wonderful way to train yourself to spot and change this pattern. Sometimes it's helpful to just let the "yes, buts" flow in writing and then sit back, read, adjust, and then re-read.

If the "and" turns your attention to adding some more good thoughts, it can be extremely helpful. However, I'm not advocating you DENY beliefs or conditions; I'm advocating a shift of a thinking pattern if the "yes, but" is disempowering you.

Self Empowerment Strategy #3
Transforming the "Yes, But ..." to "Yes, But, Yes ..."

The pattern I recommend even more strongly as a self empowerment practice is that you add a "yes" thought AFTER the "but" thought. The idea is to END the subject with an upbeat or "yes" thought or expression. There may still be a contradiction in your statement, but at least it's in a sandwich and you have a ratio of two to one with a "yes" leading and ending.

I've had great pleasure observing clients practice this after we've discussed the value of making a change in the speech pattern. Here are some examples to give you an idea.

  • "The training program had lots of helpful information, but I did get lost from time to time. Fortunately, one of my most important learnings is that I really need to ask questions when I feel lost because I know that helps me to be more engaged."

  • "I love my job, but my boss is really unreasonable at times. Come to think of it, his style does challenge me to be more precise with my examples and to be a little more prepared before each meeting."

  • "I love my husband dearly, but sometimes he forgets some of the most important details. To give an example, just the other day he ... oh, never mind. That isn't nearly as important as the fact that he remembered our anniversary in a really, really big way."

When you're practicing this self empowerment technique in situations that are relevant to you, you can actually feel the energy shift. You have to pay attention and you have to practice. If "Yes, But ..." is a disempowering thought and/or speech pattern for you, it will be well worth the effort. This is a simple yet transformational self empowerment technique.

Honoring the But in Self Empowerment

Transformation in Hand

For sure, I'm not advocating removing "but" from the language. It serves a valuable purpose, but if your use of it is disempowering to you, you can shift the pattern so it is more empowering.

Here's the reason that I've taken the time to say all that I've said: If you're feeling blocked or limited on a particular topic or dream, listen to how you're talking about it. You may find that you're "yes, butting" yourself out of your dream. "But," you can "yes" yourself right back into your dream if you're paying attention.

Copyright © 2008 Marshall House. Jeanie Marshall, Personal Development Coach and Consultant, writes extensively on subjects related to personal empowerment, meditation, and effective use of language. This Self Empowerment Technique is not available for republication at any other web site.

This Technique is Self Empowerment by Transforming a Phrase

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