Stop interruptions – Say “NO” nicely using “Yes but…” statements

We have all been there, because we like to be helpful we find it difficult to say “NO” to others, for such a small word it has a lot of negative connotations. Unfortunately we have to learn to say “no” otherwise we become victims of constant interruptions from others. What we have to do is learn to say “no” in other ways. There are a number of ways to say “no nicely” and “Yes but…” statements are just one way.

When to use “Yes but…” statements

When you are the victim of an interruption, or a conversation shows no signs of ending, try a “Yes but….” statement. Start with a positive declaration of your interest and support, and finish with a compelling reason why you must return to what you were doing, The following statement is an example:

“Yes I do want your input on that, but right now a customer is waiting for me to call them with a quote.”

Making “Yes but…” statements work

To make “Yes but…” statements work, one part or the other must meet either of the following two criteria:

  • Time is limited for reasons outside of your control, and you have no choice but to cut the interruption or conversation short


  • The person to whom you are talking will gain by leaving you alone.

There are probably millions of possible “yes but…” statements. Below are some typical statements, that you can combine to use as an interruption stopper.




  • I will discuss this further,
  • That’s interesting,
  • I wish I could help,
  • You are absolutely correct,
  • You’ve got a good point there,
  • I’m glad you brought that up,
  • This will be my highest priority tonight,
  • Thanks for your help,
  • I’d like to meet tomorrow so I can hear the rest of your views’
  • I understand that,
  • My boss is waiting for me.
  • I have a room full of customers at the moment.
  • We’re going to lose a big order unless I get this data to the sales manager now
  • I won’t be able to do it till later.
  • That pert I know. What I meant was…
  • I’ve got to rush of to a meeting.
  • I’ll have twice as much time for you tomorrow.
  • Right now I have to finish this report, as my boss is waiting for it.
  • What I really need your help on is….

For Example:

“I wish I could help, but right now I have to finish this report, as my boss is waiting for it.”

Be assertive

No Matter what you say, it should always be followed by decisive action. Don’t wait for the other person to leave or stop talking; take the action required to end the conversation or interruption and get yourself back on track, shake his or her hand and walk away, say goodbye and hang up the telephone, or turn towards your computer and start pounding away on the keyboard.

This is particularly important when you are asked for “a few minutes to discuss an important issue”. This is one of the most common interruptions, you have to be firm and stand your ground, you can promise to help as soon as you have finished what you are doing, or suggest someone who might be able to provide assistance sooner. But don’t give in unless your boss or someone higher up is doing the asking. Nothing takes only “a few minutes.”

If you found this useful why not download my free booklet 20 top time management tips

Till Next Time

The Time Doctor – Mike Gardner

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Mike Gardner - The Time Doctor

Mike Gardner is The Time Doctor helps the overworked and overwhelmed learn to say 'No' nicely, and improve their management of time, emails and meetings. He is also an avid fan of Aston Villa, a Dad of Neil & Emma, a hubby to Wendy and in his role with the reserve forces, he has completed operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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12 thoughts on “Stop interruptions – Say “NO” nicely using “Yes but…” statements

  1. Great tips for how to handle a situation where you want to help but can’t at that moment. I’m not usually a person who has trouble saying no. I usually phrase it in I would love to help but statements.So I like the angle you use.

  2. These are very helpful suggestions. I think I am often the person who needs to hear these instead of saying them, but I’ve copied your list and practiced saying several in combination.

  3. Mike, I’ll be sure and use the “Yes, but…” statements with my kids the next time they interrupt me while I’m working in my office. This happens quite frequently and I don’t believe I’m going about it the right way. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Thank you Mike. I need to memorize this and use it often. Appreciate you showing me how to use yes in a way that works for me.

  5. Working from home, it took a while to train neighbours, friends and family that it didn’t mean I was always available. Yes but… statements came in very handy. It’s not that I don’t want to help, chat, have coffee – it’s just that some things are more important right now.

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