Change one word and improve your conversations

A very wise person taught me an important lesson several years ago:

Rather than saying “but”, try saying “and” instead.

just-one-word-sketch

I remember when I first heard this advice, my first reaction was that this was another one of those trite phrases that people like to say sometimes. However, I really trust the person who shared his wisdom with me, so I took the time to carefully listen to his perspective.

He told me that the word “but” is one of those words that triggers a negative response in most people. With this simple word, you can signal that you disagree or that there is some condition to the statement you just made. Consider the following phrases:

  • I love your idea, but I don’t think it’s right for this scenario.
  • The numbers may suggest that, but I don’t think you’ve analyzed them correctly.
  • I think you’re great for the position, but I need to think about whether you’ll be a good fit in our company.
The word “and” signals that you have something to add to the conversation. It doesn’t put people on the defensive, and opens up everyone to a more productive conversation. Consider the phrases from above — this time with “and” instead of “but”:
  • I love your idea, and I have some ideas of my own I would like to share with you.
  • The numbers may suggest that, and I have another interpretation of the data
  • I think you’re great for the position, and I want to spend more time thinking about how you fit in our organization

SWAMI SAYS: Do you use the word “but” more than the word “and”? Try an experiment today: each time you want to say the word “but”, try substituting the word “and.” How do your conversations change? Are they more positive? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Matt Douglas is the Founder & CEO of Punchbowl.com. Follow @mattdouglas on Twitter. For every new follower this year, Matt is donating $0.25 to Water.org.

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One comment

  1. In my profession, we use the word "but" all the time. It is a signal from someone like me or to someone like me that there is a material qualifier; a substantive risk. We also use "it depends," and "no" frequently.Can you guess my profession?This is all to say if you want to encourage collaboration, cooperation, optimism, enthusiasm, and open communication, try Matt's suggestion.If, on the other hand, you merely want to avoid risk, stick with "but," "maybe," and "no."

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