Do You Have the “Yeah But” Syndrome

Published on June 28, 2012

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who asked you to give them your opinion?

Or someone who was telling you how miserable their life, business or relationship is and if they could just ________ it would be so much better.

Maybe you choose to offer a solution or share with them a story about someone else who had overcome a similar issue.

The person half way listens (briefly) to the information you are sharing and then quickly responds with a statement beginning with “Yeah, but....”

If you are in a conversation and continues in this circular fashion, it is pretty safe to say that any suggestion or idea is going to fall on deaf ears. Today anyway.

We all do it, by the way. Most of us without even realizing it.

It’s our way of saying, “I’m not totally committed to getting better yet”or “I am not really ready to take the steps needed to improve.”

Conversations around losing weight and getting healthy seem especially prone to draw forth an endless stream of “yeah, but...” conversations.

They sound something like this:


Mother: “I want (or need) to lose some weight. All my clothes are too tight and I just don’t have the energy I used to have. And when I was out showing houses yesterday, I got winded just going up and down a flight of stairs.” 

Daughter: “You know Mom, I have this friend who lost a lot of weight by hiring a health coach who helped her follow a program where she ate healthy foods something like 6 times a day and drank water and she didn’t even have to exercise that much. Maybe you could try talking to her.” 

Mother: “Yeah, but I am so busy and don’t really have time to eat 6 times a day much less spend time talking to a coach once a week.”

Daughter: “I understand from my friend that the meals were easy to take on the go and that the coach was really flexible in how they communicated. You know my friend is an executive at that tech company and she has a packed schedule too.”

Mother: “Yeah, but most of the time those kinds of programs have foods that don’t taste good and they usually have lots of preservatives in them which aren’t really good for you.”

Daughter: “That may be true, but according to my friend who really researched this program, the food is formulated by medical doctors and is very healthy. Not only that, she said that there were lots of choices and that the food was really good.”

Mother: “Yeah, but your friend is a lot younger than me and at my age, I just don’t do as well on diets as younger people do.”

Daughter: “Actually, my friends Mom who is also your age lost over 75 lbs on the program and also got off all her medications.”

Mother: “Yeah, but it probably won’t last. They will gain all that weight back in no time.”

Daughter: “My friend has kept her weight off for over two years on this phase they call ‘maintenance’ where she eats regular food most of the time and uses her program meals when she is too busy to prepare a lunch or breakfast during the week or when she is traveling.”

Mother: “You know that I am on a tight budget and that I really can’t afford anything extra right now.”

Daughter: “That is what I thought was cool about this. My friend said she spent less money on her program food than she did on her regular meals because eating out is so expensive. She also got credits toward her orders when she referred people to her health coach.”

Mother: “Yeah, that all sounds good and everything, but I think I will just try to cut back on my sweets and not eat that late night ice cream snack. I mean, I am really not that much too heavy and besides, when you get to be my age you can expect to gain a little. It’s just an age thing.” 

Daughter: “OK, Mom. If you change your mind let me know. You are the one who said you didn’t have energy and your clothes were too tight. I really want you to feel better. Next time just say that you are choosing to have low energy and tight clothes instead of losing weight and it would save us a lot of time and frustration."

Of course this is just a fictional conversation, but I am guessing we can all recall some type of similar dialog with others in our lives about either this topic or another.

“The “Yeah But Syndrome” is nothing more than a person’s inability or unwillingness to make a firm decision to change.”

The “Yeah But Syndrome” is nothing more than a person’s inability or unwillingness to make a firm decision to change. You see, there are big differences between “wanting," "needing," and “choosing” to do something.

  • Wanting - Desire. An urge. A sense that there is another option or choice.
  • Needing - Pressure. Concern. A sense of negative consequence without change.
  • Choosing - Personal decision. Intention. Conscious awareness. Commitment. A sense of personal power and responsibility.


A person may "want" to take action or even "need" to take action, but until they CHOOSE to do it... action will never take place (or will be unsustainable over time).

Choice is a powerful thing. Merely wanting something is just not enough.

When someone chooses to change, change can take place. Until then...there isn’t a program or person in the world that can help them. They must choose before they can change.

What changes do you want, need, or choose to make in your life?

Do you have any  "Yeah buts?



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