AND or BUT, IT’S YOUR CHOICE
It can be comical to think about how two very simple words can affect someone’s demeanor, someone’s attitude and even someone’s hearing. Many people will begin a conversation with a predestined plan in hopes of imparting wisdom to alter the other person’s attitude or behavior. At times, even the listener may be unaware of this agenda. Usually someone will start with a version of flattery about how well they did something and follows the compliment with “but” you can do this next time. When this happens, the direction of the conversation negatively changes for the listener. When someone uses the word “but” this immediately puts the listener into a defensive attitude. This defensive position resembles the proverbial block wall and will disengage the listener from any further advice or compliments. The conversation probably started where the listener felt encouraged, but it quickly went into a downward spiral where the listener questions the sincerity of the complement and ultimately disregarded the request that was made. After this three letter word, “but” the listener hears in his or her heart, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m a failure”, or “I am not living up to your expectations.” The inner dialogue on both sides of the conversation happens in seconds while trying to be polite on the outside to each other. The speaker and the listener could be anyone from a spouse to a spouse, a parent to a child, a teacher to a student, a coach to an athlete, a boss to an employee, a co-worker to another co-worker, a friend to a friend and even your inner self. There are many possibilities of the roles that we may play in this story, but the bottom line is that each of us have been in the roles of the speaker and the listener. This scenario happens multiple times per day whether the conversation is brief or extends to twenty minutes. Just to be clear, this is not an insight on how to avoid conversations and become someone who lives in a cave and doesn’t talk to a single person. The insight is meant to provide a guide or a script for you to use in your next conversation.
To make this relevant, think of an excited young girl racing home from school with her report card eager to show her father her grades. He looks at the report card and says, “that’s a great job Emily, I am really proud of you for your grades this nine weeks. “But” you really need to get your math grade up if you ever want to go to college. Why don’t you go get your math book and we can start right now with some math problems.” What the dad fails to realize is how Emily feels when she goes to get her math book. Not only does she not want to go get the book but her heart is crushed. Math is hard for Emily, she was happy to get a 84%, but now she feels like a failure. What if, the dad would have said, “that’s a great job Emily, I am really proud of you for your grades this nine weeks, your hard work really shows, “and” it won’t be long before all of your grades are A’s.” This simple change in words would make a drastic impact in Emily’s attitude of her grades. She would grab the math book herself and study without being told to try harder. She would be helping herself in the direction of eagerness. Three letters in a comment by a speaker can leave lasting results regardless of who the listener might be.
The word “but” can also have effects to your inner self because it focuses you on what you didn’t accomplish or what you failed to do. For instance, during the company’s morning shift meeting, the boss sets a production goal of 50 units per day for each worker. One of the employees on the floor, named Sam, tells himself that he will make 65 units. During the work day, many problems are brought to Sam that distract him from his goal, yet by 3:00 pm, he meets the order of 50 units. By 5:00 pm when Sam clocks out, he knows that he produced 58 units, eight more than what was required, yet he tells himself, “but I didn’t reach 65.” He thinks that maybe this job is not right for him, that maybe he’s not good enough and he should just quit. He gives power to his failure by repeatedly telling himself the word “but” he failed. When Sam pulls in the driveway, how do you think Sam will greet his family after a long day? When he walks in the house, he sits down in front of the TV and doesn’t engage with anyone for hours. His wife puts the kids to bed and asks him, “what’s wrong?” He gives her the details of how he made the quota but missed his goal of 65 units. She tries to encourage him by saying, “your boss challenged you with 50 units ‘and’ you made 58 units, no one else did that, ‘and’ tomorrow I know that you will go for a new number.’’ That night as Sam closed his eyes, he smiled because he beat the quota. These two very different conversations happened for Sam in the same day. The one inside himself and the encouraging words from his wife. Each conversation contained two different words of “but & and” yet each caused dramatically different emotions for Sam.
There are many more examples that I could list to reinforce the importance of changing a word in our conversation when we interact each other. More importantly than examples in a story, is for you to create your own example in your next conversation with someone. Instead of using a praise with “but”, then a request; try using a praise with “and” then another praise. See what happens in the emotion of the conversation, the heart of the listener and the results you ultimately desire. You will be surprised of what can happen for both of you.
Thank you for reading “And” Have a Great Day!