Shift “No, But” to “Yes, If”

We’ve all been there. Someone asks you a question or sends you a request and it’s not achievable, whether it’s lack of time, money or responsibility. Your immediate reaction is to say “No, but…” and offer an alternative solution.

Here’s the problem. If you ever hear the word “No” in answer to a question you’ve asked, you know you don’t hear anything past that word. You shut down and are disheartened by whatever follows the “but”.

Sandwiching the “no, but” between positive comments pre and post doesn’t really help either, it can just make you feel like whatever else said was insincere.

So what should we do instead? Because, let’s be clear it is absolutely important to learn how to say “no” too.

Yes, if…

What we can do is give a “yes” that includes boundaries and targets that fit our schedules.

So let’s try to frame our “No, but” into a “Yes, if…” instead.

For example, if your manager was to ask you if you could pull a new proposal document together by the end of the week but you were very busy, try saying “Yes, if you are happy that [other project] I’m currently working on to be delivered the later than planned” or even just, “Yes I can do it, if you are happy to wait for next Wednesday for it”. This then sparks a conversation about your other priorities and workload to come up with a solution that fits both parties.

Or, if a client asks if they can add something else into their project within the same budget, a response could look like “Yes, if you’re happy to wait an extra week for the final product” or “Yes, if you are happy for just 1 set of amends on creative work instead of 2”. This helps them to understand the pressures and look at what the key objectives of the project are.

This work much better, because when you respond by saying the word “yes” people feel heard and valued. And if they feel more positive, it means they are much more likely to get onboard with the objectives you set and spark more conversation and creativity around how to actually reach the goal. This in turn leads to further trust between you and the person.

Putting it into practice.

It will be much easier on email or message to adapt your train of thought to use this new response.

Shifting your answer to “Yes, if” on a call or face to face will take more thought, so don’t give your answer immediately. Take time to really hear the suggestion and repeat it in your head, before working out how to set up your answer more positively.

Try doing it for a day, and just see how it changes everyone’s attitude. We’re sure you’ll soon adopt it into your everyday life.


For more tips on how to be an effective leader take a look at our different programmes and courses we have on offer.

The 4Ps of Candid Conversations


The “Four Ps” model can help us to plan for a difficult or candid conversation so that both parties find it beneficial.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn how to plan for a difficult or candid conversation so that both parties find it beneficial
  • Understand how to use the 4Ps to deliver a difficult message
  • Consider how this can help manage under-performance in a structured manner

Assertive Disagreement


When you disagree with someone, it is often best to be direct and clear, as it avoids an unfortunate misunderstanding. People can shy away from disagreement as it can sometimes feel confrontational. The assertive approach introduced in this module helps you to express your disagreement in a professional, constructive manner.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn what assertiveness is
  • Learn a process to put your case across without getting emotional
  • Provide context for how to use the model in a real-world environment

Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument


Because no two individuals have exactly the same expectations and desires, conflict is a natural part of our interactions with others. This self-test assessment will tell you more about your predominant style of handling conflict and what this means.

Learning Outcomes

  • Provide a starting point for your development
  • Identify your conflict handling style
  • Learn about the five conflict handling modes

AID Feedback Model


Providing feedback that encourages open dialogue and communication enhances your credibility as both a teammate and as a leader. AID is a simple feedback model that can be used for positive moments and those that need corrective action.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn a simple model for providing feedback
  • Identify your own role in each of the stages
  • Discover the benefits of creating a feedback culture

Action-Centred Leadership


Good managers and leaders should have full command of the three main areas of the Action-Centred Leadership model and should use each of the elements according to the situation.

Learning Outcomes

  • Discover John Adair’s action-centred leadership model
  • Learn how to adapt the model for your own work situation
  • Investigate the danger of becoming out of balance

Question Types


Asking the right question is at the heart of effective communication and information exchange. Using the right questions can improve a whole range of communication skills; the information we receive back (the answer) will depend very much on the type of question we ask.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn why asking the right question is at the heart of effective communication and information exchange
  • Discover why the right questions in a particular situation can improve a whole range of communication skills

Dr. Mehrabian’s Communication Model


We are always communicating, even when we are not speaking. Other factors communicate what we really think and feel, which can be explained by looking at Albert Mehrabian’s communication model.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn the impact of mixed messages when communicating
  • Understand that communication is a blend of words, body language and tone

Situational Leadership


Leaders need to tailor their approach based on the person they are coaching, their experience at the task and their level of enthusiasm for completing it.

The ability to adapt your leadership style to cater to different tasks and your people’s needs is called situational leadership.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand Hersey and Blanchard’s situational leadership model
  • Recognise directive and supportive behaviours
  • Understand the four leadership styles in line with situational leadership
  • Understand the development levels of team members, based on competence and commitment
  • Become confident with flexing your leadership style to the individual and the situation