Banish ‘but’: A simple strategy for powerful and inclusive communication

Have you ever wondered how some people communicate effectively while others are overlooked, even though they may express the same ideas? How you communicate has a significant impact on your effectiveness as a leader.

Eliminate ‘but’ from your vocabulary, or at least use it with caution, and you will be surprised at the positive difference this will make to your level of influence.

Three little letters – B U T… How can this make such an impact?

‘But’ stifles the flow and dampens the energy of conversations. ‘But’ leaves people feeling unheard. ‘But’ leaves doubt in the minds of those listening.

When I say ‘I would be happy to have you as my client, but I work with many talented leaders’, what feelings and ideas are you left with? You may think I question your talent as a leader…

How about if I instead said ‘I would be happy to have you as my client, and I work with many talented leaders’? You would probably understand me to want you as my client AND that I consider you to also be talented as a leader!

The unconscious mind tends to negate anything said before the ‘but’, so in the first example above you are left thinking I work with many talented leaders, and your unconscious mind has negated my comment that I would be happy to have you as my client.

Use ‘but’ with caution and only where you really mean it.

‘But’ can usually be replaced by ‘and’ or even a silence or pause.

  • ‘You wrote a great report but I would like to help you perfect it.’
  • ‘You wrote a great report and I would like to help you perfect it.’
  • ‘You wrote a great report. I would like to help you perfect it.’

What differences do you notice?

Where do you use ‘but’ now? In what situations?And to who? I challenge you to count the number of ‘buts’ you toss into the communications space in one morning.

How could you benefit from more powerful and inclusive communication by dropping ‘but’ and embracing ‘and’?