Words are powerful. Enough to transform us. Or break us.
While knowing and choosing the right words is important, being aware of the words that you (subconsciously) use on a daily basis is critical. One such word is “but.” It has become the butt of all jokes in the world of NLP and pop-psychology, “but” for a reason.
Let me explain. Consider a manager sharing feedback with his peer or one of his team members:
“Sunil, awesome job on the reports that you turned in. The senior leadership was just blown away by the depth of your research and the simplicity with which you’d explained the complex. Everything was just brilliant but please keep the time in mind — 15 does not mean 25 minutes. Ha ha! But great job!”
Did you see what happened there?
The boss messed it up by adding the “but” there. All that appreciate doesn’t even make sense once the “but” makes an appearance. The recipient tunes himself out and just focuses on the point where improvement is warranted.
So, what does he do? Go back and work on it. In the next round, they have a similar dialog and everything goes well until the “but” shows up yet again. The recipient feels miserable and the cycle continues. Eventually, this person would just quit because the boss never seems to be happy.
The fix is pretty simple — instead of “but” use an “and.” End of discussion. The “and” is complementary and not contrasting like “but.” Here’s an example:
“Sunil, awesome job on the reports that you turned in. The senior leadership was just blown away by the depth of your research and the simplicity with which you’d explained the complex. Everything was just brilliant and they would have literally bowed to you, had you wrapped it up in 15 minutes… it was so well delivered!”
See what happened there? The core message remains the same. Slipping the “and” changes the play on words to make it sound genuine. Which, by the way, might be the case in the first instance. Just that the choice of words wasn’t correct.
Replacing “and” for “but” is doable and doesn’t take a lot of effort. And the best part is that it can be applicable everywhere! From feedback to debates, expressing a point of view to expressing differences and everything in between.
In coaching, “and” can be empowering. It literally opens up possibilities instead of getting stuck. Consider this dialog taking place in your head:
“I wanted to write but got a call from a client who wanted to meet me. But then it started raining.” Here’s the inference — I don’t know what to do… I really am not in a good place right now. I don’t want to meet this client. It’s raining. It’s a mess. I hate my life!
Here’s an edited version:
“I wanted to write but got a call from a client who wanted to meet me. And then it started raining.” Here’s the inference — I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to write but this client called me up for a meeting. And right then it started to rain… wow! Now I can call up and cancel or reschedule it for tomorrow or later this evening so that I can write.
See the difference?
I use “and” quite often. It’s been a rewarding experience and has truly helped me get unstuck leading me to breakthroughs I could’ve never gotten otherwise.
Try it and see for yourself! “But” beware… you’re in for a surprise! Oops!
Try it and see for yourself! And be prepared for a surprise! 😉