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Do you have a “ya but” person in your business?

Negative. Pessimist. Angry. Uncaring. Stuck in the past. Difficult.

Do you have someone working at your business like this?

Most businesses do.

I am by nature an optimist. I like to see the bright side of things. I like to think of how something can be done instead of why it can’t. This doesn’t make me right or better than anyone, it’s just who I’ve chosen to be.

At the same time, I’m not a rose coloured glasses kind of guy either. I have a firm grip on reality and understand that there will always be challenges and obstacles and that not every ideas is a good idea.

This post is to discuss the differences in how we all see the world, not to convince you to have a positive outlook.

First let me explain what a “ya but” person is.

This is the person on your team or in your organization that no matter what the topic, when a new idea or way of doing things is presented, they will jump in with “yes, but…” the, but being the key word.

Even with the word “yes” in front of it (making it sound like they agree), the but brings in the exact opposite meaning and causes people to get defensive and to stop listening.

I have no problem with disagreement. In fact I encourage discussion and debate as much as possible. The challenge here is the “ya but” person is not taking the time to look at the idea or solution on its own merits, instead they are basing their thinking completely on their own history and the experience they had.

If they had a bad experience, then they believe this will always be the result. If they tried the product and didn’t like it, no one will.

As human beings we need to draw on our experiences and history. It helps us know if we’re on track and how we’re progressing.

So why is the “ya but” person an unneeded distraction, because it’s their first and at times only view of the world.

Sometimes this person can be viewed as negative or problematic, but in reality they are just too focused on their own past to see the future and how they can change it.

If you have someone in your business or personal life like this, here is a way you can help him or her by asking them these three questions the next time a situation arises:

1.     What was it specifically that happened the last time you encountered this (situation/product/service)?

2.     What did you learn from that experience?

3.     What do you think we could do differently this time to achieve a more positive result?

This exercise is not meant to try to change the person’s worldview. Instead, its designed to allow them to draw on their past and experiences, but this time, get them to think about the possibility of it turning out differently.

By allowing people to contribute from a place they know (their past), they feel comfortable and entitled to share what they’ve learned, but by challenging them to draw on that knowledge to see what else is possible, it helps them go from probability to possibility, and that’s where innovation takes place.