“But” needs to butt out. Swap it.

Ever had one of those days when those wretched little voices have had a field day in your head?  “You’re a fraud! Who’ll go for that idea?  No-one! Tried that before; it was rubbish! I’d love to do that, but…”

Let’s start with a quick bit of grammar revision.  The word “but” is commonly used as a conjunction in writing.  A what?  A conjunction: it’s a joining word. The word “but”, when used as a conjunction, flags up a contrast between one part of a sentence and another as in, “I’d love to do that but I know I’d be useless at it!”

The word “and” is also a conjunction.  It’s different from “but” in that it creates an addition or connection from one part of a sentence to another, as in, “I’d love to do that and I know I’d be useless at it!” See how different the second sentence sounds, using “and” instead of “but”?  “But” implies negativity and defensiveness. The person isn’t even going to give it a try.  “And” implies acceptance, with perhaps some humour at the thought of being incapable, and the good chance that the person will have a go, because what’s the worst that could happen (brain surgery excluded, of course)?

I’d like to encourage you to play with these three-letter conjunctions.  Notice how often you hear others using “but”, and how differently their communication might sound, or be received, if they used “and” instead.  Now, see how often you catch yourself using the b- word, in writing or speech.  Take a moment and see how you feel about it.  Try swapping your “buts” for “ands”; I guarantee that you will start to view your communication in a different light.  As soon as you substitute an “and” for a “but”, you will increase the positivity of what you are saying or writing dramatically; it happens naturally. At the very least, you will have introduced an acceptance of the situation.

Use it to defuse conflict
Often, we hear “I hear what you’re saying, but…” which implies that whatever you’ve said doesn’t count, and the other person is about to impose their opinion or instruction, regardless.  “I hear what you’re saying, and…” introduces the possibility of compromise.

Use it to promote creativity
Instead of, “I’d like to be able to do that, but…”, if you say, “I’d like to be able to do that, and…”  it will open metaphorical doors and encourage creative thinking.

Use it to combat your own negative self-talk
I could try that, but…” becomes “I could try that, and…” Give your curiosity a chance to take over!

Two for the price of one: a coaching strategy with a bit of English terminology revision. Random synergy is the way forward!

The picture at the top?  Just random too!

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About Marianna Beckwith