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The Way to Say It Tips: Replace “but” with “and”

Your meaning completely changes when you use "but" to connect your thoughts.

Your meaning completely changes when you use “but” to connect your thoughts.

Ever listen to how most of us speak? Day in and day out, we connect our thoughts with “but”. In fact, it’s so common we barely hear ourselves say it.  That is, unless we are on the receiving end. Then the word “but” seems to jump out at us.  See how these statements feel:

I love the design you created but I’d like to share some of my ideas with you.

You’ve done good work on the end of month statements lately, but I’d like your team report a day or two earlier.

I understand your feelings, but I’d like to tell you how I feel.

Now, check out the same statements using “and” instead of “but” to connect the thoughts:

I love the design you created AND I’d like to share some of my ideas with you.

You’ve done good work on the end of month statements lately, AND I’d like your team report a day or two earlier.

I understand your feelings, AND I’d like to tell you how I feel.

The difference is subtle, but not so subtle that we don’t get the message.  It  feels corrective. It brings up defensiveness. Use of the word “but” negates what was said before it.  And THAT is the what we react to. THAT is what makes us feel let down . We hear only the negative and throw out every positive word that preceded the “but.”

Connecting our thoughts with “but” is easy. It flows off our tongues without a thought. BUT, connecting thoughts with “and” gives a completely different meaning.  By substituting “and” instead, we convey positive thoughts and reduce the tendency for others to react with defensiveness or explanation.

If both of your statements are true and neither one is meant to contradict the other, then try “and.” Need proof?  For the next few days, tune in for the word “but.”  Hear it. Hear yourself say it.  Listen for it in conversation. Every time you hear it, mentally substitute “and” in its place. Then notice the difference. It’s a small shift in communications that makes a remarkable difference in meaning and interpretation.

Are These 20 Phrases Damaging Your Career and Holding You Back at Work?

holding woman back at officeSome phrases we learn from our parents. Some we pick up listening to others. Some are just filler that make us more comfortable when we’re speaking. Many, unfortunately, are ineffective in creating great communications.

Check these out. Do they sound like you?


1.  “You really should…”  –  No one wants to be told what they SHOULD do.

2.  “You really shouldn’t…– And possibly even more what they SHOULDN’T do.

3.  “You made me feel…” – No one makes us feel anything. Our feelings and reactions are our choices.

4.  “You never listen” – This phrase is sure to shut down listening even more!

5.  “……… but ……….” – Any phrase followed by “but” negates anything said prior. Use “and” instead.

6.  “To be honest, I ________” –  This infers that maybe you weren’t being honest before, or that you aren’t always honest.

7.  “Basically”– It’s filler. It weakens your message. Learn to just say what you need to say without this lead-in.

8.  “You never” or “You always” – These generalizations are sure to shut down conversation or spark conflict.

9.  “We need to talk!”  – It sends heart rates up and folks running, as it is NEVER followed by good news.

10. “Why can’t you be more like …….?” –  You may have heard this as a child, but even there this phrase can produce nothing positive.

11. “You do that every time we …..– It’s accusatory, generalizing and will shut anyone down.

12. “Maybe” (when you really mean “no”) – If you are thinking “no”, learn to say it. Clearly, honestly and appropriately. Maybe leads to confusion down the road.

13. “It’s not my fault!”– True or not, let that fact be made clear by your conversation and explanation, not by sounding like a child defending themselves.

14. “What you have to understand is………”– No, it’s not true. No one HAS to understand anything. What you mean is “what I hope you understand is”…

15. “That’s not fair” – Unless you are under the age of 5, omit this phrase from ALL communications.

16. “With all due respect”– This phrase usually precedes passive/aggressive communication and is not offering respect at all, and it’s overused.

17. “That’s not a good idea” – You may think that, but a better way to respond might be, “Here is a concern I have about this idea” or “let’s examine that idea together.”

18. “Why would you do that?”  This one is usually full of “tone” and judgment. If you can deliver it as a genuine, neutral question of curiosity, it might work. Otherwise, skip it.

19. “Don’t take it personally– First of all, this phrase never stops someone from taking it personally and it usually precedes feedback that is potentially upsetting and personal to the listener. Just learn to deliver your feedback well…without this phrase.

20. “You need to …… – Another form of telling someone what to do. It’s not up to you to determine what someone else needs. You can request or suggest, or as a boss you can say, “Here is what I need you to do.”

If these expressions are part of your communications at work, it’s time to delete them and master some new, healthier responses.

Let me know you’re out there. Which ones do you struggle with? What expressions do you need a new response to substitute?