As Donn King says, people are not logical, they’re psycho-logical. When it comes to effectively communicating, there’s a certain three letter word that causes a whole lot of trouble. This word, especially when used during an argument or important conversation with a loved one, is surprisingly powerful. It’s like a little tiny needle that can pop the balloon of all the good, loving, positive things you’ve just said. It’s the word, ‘but.’
Using but in a sentence generally serves to negate or distill all the positive statements you made before it. Sometimes we don’t even consciously register that when we hear the word but, our brains translate it into this:
But = Here’s the catch…
What do we do when we hear there’s a catch? We go on the defensive.
We tighten up, we close ourselves off, we challenge the veracity of all the positive statements, we shut down.
Here are some classic examples of what I mean:
The Talker: “I really care about you, but this is incredibly frustrating for me.”
The Listener: “So, what? So just because you’re frustrated that’s it?”
Even if the listener doesn’t say it out loud, when people hear the word ‘but’ they immediately hear it as an objection to whatever was just said. To avoid taking 3 steps forward and 6 steps back during your next tough conversation, switch one three letter word for another.
Use the word ‘and’ instead.
Here’s the difference:
The Talker: “I really care about you, and this is incredibly frustrating for me.”
The Listener: “I know, I’m frustrated too.”
Sometimes, we want to distill the positive statements we’re making before we use the word but. As in the classic heart stinger, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” If you’re trying to step away from the person to create space and distance, then by all means, use but. If you’re trying to engender closeness, intimacy and deeper understanding, consider replacing but with these statements:
At the same time,
And I want
And I don’t want