The tiny b-word

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The One Word That’s Undermining Everything Else You Say

“‘It acts like a mental eraser and it often buries whatever you’ve said before it,’ says Colleyville, Texas communications consultant Dianna Booher, author of What More Can I Say: Why Communication Fails and What to Do About It. ‘It makes communication spiral down instead of spin up.’ …

The tiny b-word also indicates, ‘I don’t agree with you.’ When you respond to someone’s idea or statement by starting off with ‘but,’ you’re essentially saying, ‘This is why you’re wrong,’ [and] … That can make the communication instantly adversarial …


A couple of tweaks to a ‘but’ response can greatly improve communication …. For example, let’s say your team had decided on a direction for your new project and at your next meeting, someone pipes in with a concern. If you respond by saying, ‘But, I thought we were in agreement here,’ you’re ignoring the concern and instantly putting the person on the defensive.

… the “yes, and” rule of improv for a better way of responding. … responding to the concern instead by replacing ‘but’ with “and,’ which adds to the conversation and invites further discussion without negating what anyone has said. So, you might respond, ‘I hear that you’re really concerned, and I’m a little confused because I thought we were all in agreement.’ The other person’s point is acknowledged and you haven’t made the exchange adversarial.

‘If you never used ‘but’ again, you’d be just fine’ … ‘It’s a conjunction used to marry two completely separate ideas. Why do that?'”


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