This post is from The Coach’s Corner which is part of the March issue of my monthly eMagazine, The Leading Edge, for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Often we get stuck in how we say things not realizing the impact of the words on others.
Think back to a time when someone was giving you feedback about something you had done. It begins sounding nice and supportive and then the word “BUT” is inserted. You know what happens. You hear the word “BUT” and you think, ‘Oh oh, what’s next?’ You suddenly feel a little deflated and may actually forget what the first part was about.
BUT is one of those words that shut down communication. Rather than being supportive and encouraging, it is competing for the two truths in a statement.
Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations, suggests that we substitute the word BUT with AND. She talks about multiple realities competing when the word BUT is used. There are two truths, I own one and you own the other, and when BUT is inserted there is a loser.
“I love what you’ve done, but…”
“I love what you’ve done and…”
See how different the start of these two statements feel without even knowing what’s next.
“I know you want an extension, but the deadline is approaching.” This statement contains two truths where the second competes with and overrides the first. No negotiation or even consideration.
“I know you want an extension and the deadline is approaching.” This statement comprises two truths of which both are balanced. What can we figure out here?
It may seem awkward at first and it might require a bit of rethinking as to how and what you are going to say to another person. When my clients and I have explored this concept, we have realized the power of it in creating a shift in thinking about the impact of our statements. It’s about recognizing the other person and their accomplishments and it’s about the other truth, whatever it is. It doesn’t negate the accomplishment, merely exists beside it.
Another reason to try to exchange these two words is that it challenges you to view things in a different way, to shift your thinking. The word “but” does not allow the brain to hold two ideas together to sort out a solution. Replacing “but” with “and” allows both thoughts to be considered which in turn may lead you both to figuring out what to do.
Although it is not always possible or necessarily easy, it is worthwhile considering the impact of your statements when using the word BUT. By trying to replace it with the word AND you are considering the impact of your statements in relation to another person-staff, student, colleague, etc.-and jointly coming to some understanding of each other.
So next time you are about to use the word BUT, stop, and think of what you are going to say and how it impacts the other person.