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Embrace and Extend

by Randall Craig on July 1, 2008

Filed in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Management

Tagged as: , , ,

How often have you been in a meeting, and felt that your colleagues’ ideas were… poor? The natural reaction is to argue the point, shut them down, and then present your own solution. Yet if you do this, you will not see any support for your ideas, either during the discussion or afterward.

Instead, why not try something different. No matter what they say, pretend that their “half-finished” idea is your own, and embrace it. Then extend the idea with something else: a clarification, a second step, or an implementation detail. The key to doing this successfully is to replace the word “but” with “and”. (And to replace the word “no” with “yes”.)

Imagine presenting an idea to your colleagues, and someone responded with a sentence that began with Yes but. This would signify the beginning of an objection. Yet if they started with Yes and – this would signal acceptance of your idea, perhaps with an improving clarification.

If despite all of your additional input you are unable to make their proposed idea work, then you can present your own alternative idea. By embracing and extending others’ ideas, they will see you more as a colleague than competitor. If someone embraces and extends your idea, they are more likely to help it succeed. This technique is even more powerful if you are a manager: it positions you more as a coach.

This week’s action item: Print out the words Yes and, then place them prominently near your telephone and computer. When you feel that you need to disagree with someone, instead try to embrace and extend their ideas: the first thing you say is Yes and.

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Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)



Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at and

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