WIN THE “YEAH BUT” GAME in 5 Easy Steps

© 2004 Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.

You know the game, don’t you? Someone invites you to help them solve a big problem and every great suggestion you make is met with, “Yeah, but that won’t work because….” You finally give up, frustrated and defeated. 

Next time someone tells you about a problem, use these steps. 

1.      Listen politely, without offering any suggestions. Remember, it is not your problem.

2.      Affirm that the problem is really important. Just say, “That sounds like a really big problem.”

3.      Ask, “What have you already tried (thought of) doing about the problem?” You learn all the suggestions to scratch off your list. And you subtly reinforce the capabilities of the person with the problem.

4.      After you hear the answer, ask, “How did that work out?” You invite the problem holder to rethink his or her own challenge. Often that leads to a solution on the spot, with thanks to you for your brilliant suggestions. (Of course, you have not made any suggestions, but that doesn’t really matter.)

5.      Ask, “Is there anything you would like from me?” Often the answer will be, “No thanks, I have figured out what to do next.” If you are invited to do something more, you can choose to accept or decline with a much broader understanding of the problem.

These steps will help you resist your own tendency to try to be a hero by solving someone else’s problem, usually before they even ask for your help. This game usually starts by someone lamenting about a problem instead of asking for help to solve it.

The invitation you are learning to decline is really about proving that the problem is unsolvable, that nobody can help, and that the problem holder is justified in giving up and doing nothing further about the problem.

Instead, you affirm the problem holder’s skill and resourcefulness, without getting involved in the game. And you may become the hero after all.


Laurie Weiss, Ph.D., author of Dare To Say It!, is an internationally known executive coach, psychotherapist, and author. For more simple secrets for turning difficult conversations into amazing opportunities for cooperation and success, visit

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