In the past, I’ve manned a suicide hotline. I’ve worked with troubled youth. I’ve spent time around 12-Step programs. Today, I work as a grief counselor.

I have received much training to prepare me for each of these roles.  I’ve been taught to listen, to ask questions, build trust, accompany one on his journey, and ultimately help him move from despondence to a new stage of life. Robust conversations lead to healing and change.

During these crucial conversations, there is a tell-tale sign that indicates whether or not a person is ready to change and that healing is forthcoming. The sign is the use of “Yes, but…” in response to any meaningful action that moves an individual out of her current state. When it is used, it’s an introductory clause to an excuse from someone who is either not ready to nor has no desire to change.

Examples include:

  • Yes, but it’s not my fault.
  • Yes, but what about X.
  • Yes, but only if Y.

One need not be dealing with life-threatening issues of depression, addiction or grief to be confronted with a “Yes, but…” response. I find that it is alive and well in the professional services world.

  • Yes, but I don’t have time to sell. Clients come first.
  • Yes, but I don’t have time to write a white paper.
  • Yes, but we will lose to our competition if we do it that way.
  • Yes, but I don’t need CRM because I have my own spreadsheet.
  • Yes, but that is the way other partners act.
  • Yes, but it doesn’t make sense for me, my practice, my office, etc…
  • Yes, but my client is different.
  • Yes, but if we focus on the “right” accounts, I can’t hit my number.


The list goes on.


When you hear it, recognize it for what it is—a precursor to an excuse to remain in the status quo. When the status quo is depression, suicide, addiction or stasis, interdiction is required from professionals like police, psychiatrists, and medical teams to save a life.

In the professional services world, we can move on to those ready and willing to change for the better.

Now, you know when.

Be prudent.

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