Changing from “Yes, BUT” to “Yes, AND”


Recently, I unexpectedly ran into an old college friend. We hadn’t seen each other in nearly 15 years, and she didn’t recognize me right away since I had much shorter hair in college.  After a big hug, my old friend said, “Wow, you look so great with long hair!”

To which I replied, “Yes, but look at all the gray hair around my temples!”

Yep, I received a genuine and heartfelt compliment, and instead of accepting it gracefully, I used the opportunity to point out one of my flaws.

Ladies, why can’t we just accept a compliment for what it is, without self-depreciation or qualification?

This self-destructive attitude was likely ingrained into our minds long ago, when it was socially unacceptable for ladies to be “good” at anything. In our grandparents’ generation, a true “lady” was modest, meek and humble.  Although this rigid view has somewhat lightened over the years, women still act as if accepting (and thus admitting!) flattering words could make us appear conceited, arrogant or stuck-up. Shouldn’t we be able to simply acknowledge a genuine compliment in a ladylike and modest way?

What’s more troubling is that I hear parents (myself included!) replying to compliments about our children with these kinds of statements.  An example: my son is quite a talented baseball player.  He plays on a regular Little League-type team, as well as a tournament team and was recently asked to “play up” in an older-age league as a substitute player.  He works hard, enjoys his sport and should be very proud of both his ability and his work ethic.  So when another mom recently said, “Wow, he’s really good,” why did I feel compelled to respond, “Yes, but he still can’t pick his towel up off of the bathroom floor”?

And worse, what kind of impression did this leave on my son, since he heard my reply?IMG_1525

In this age of social media, we may be trying to avoid the “humble brag.” You know, posting a complaint that is really a thinly veiled boast.  As in, “My brand-new iPhone 6 is running so slowly!” or “I can’t believe how long the line is to board my direct flight to Aruba!”  However, it should be possible to gracefully accept a compliment (especially one about a child!) without being perceived as showing off.  And I don’t EVER want to blow an opportunity to let my children know how proud they make me.

In her hilarious book Bossypants, comedian Tina Fey gives an explanation of the art of improvisational comedy.  Her instruction is that in order to keep a scene going, you must reply to each statement your partner makes with “Yes, AND [your next statement]”.  Even though receiving a compliment isn’t necessarily improv comedy, she makes a good point that “Yes, BUT” could have so much more meaning if it was changed to “Yes, AND”.  For instance:

Baseball mom: “Wow, your son is really good!”

Me: “Yes, AND it’s so much fun to see all of his hard work pay off.”


Teacher: “Your daughter is such a polite and thoughtful girl!”

Me: “Yes, AND we are very proud of her.”

Or perhaps the most simple and meaningful of all…

Old friend: “Wow, you look so great with long hair!”

Me: “Yes, AND thank you!”



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