“Don’t put your “but” in the face of an angry person” – Marshall Rosenberg

If you are interested in being an effective communicator, you are probably interested in the power of words and language.

One I have been practising for some time in my own life is avoiding the word “but”, often by substituting the word “and”.

By replacing “but” with “and” I find most communications become more powerful and positive. “But” is a minimising word that detracts from the information that came before it.

For example, “I went grocery shopping but I forgot the milk” has a different feel than, “I went grocery shopping and I forgot the milk”. The first one diminishes the fact that you went shopping and got many other things. Whereas, by saying “and” you take active ownership of the fact that you forgot and you are therefore in a position of power.  Try saying it both ways and notice how different it feels.

Subtle but different.

Another example is when giving feedback. Saying something like: “You did a good job but next time do it this way” disqualifies the positive part of the statement. All the other person hears is that they didn’t do it right!  “You did a good job AND there is another way I can show you” acknowledges both the effort that was made plus the feedback you want to share.

Avoiding “but” is also pertinent when dealing with another’s anger. If you say “Yes, but…” to an angry person, they will see it as invalidating their feelings or perceptions. Instead, simply empathise to deescalate the situation.

Start noticing how often you say “but” and try swapping it for “and”. You will see you almost never need the word “but”. I have not yet come upon an instance where this shift from “but” to “and” cannot be made while also retaining the integrity of your message.

See for yourself!

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