I used to be a fan and avid user of the word “but”. I felt that using it allowed me to be kind yet firm, and to be humble while keeping my pride. It is a word that can become your best ally when you want to complain, demand, or appreciate with certain conditions. Its definition says it all: “Except for the fact; on the contrary”. (1)
I could show praise to someone while still reminding them of something that I’d like to change in them: “You are smart, but your mood is not the best.” I could complain without sounding as if I was nagging: “I’m sad you didn’t call, but I understand you were busy.” I could make an agreement with conditions “Let’s eat that, but buy me ice cream later.” I was a big fan of “but” until I learned the great care needed when using it because when the brain hears “but” it forgets or ignores the words said just before. (2)
It may sound confusing at first; nevertheless, a couple of simple examples given by neuro linguistic experts quickly clarified the danger of this word: “If you tell someone ‘I love you, but you are so annoying’ that person will remember the annoying part and not the love you have for him or her. If you tell your child ‘you did great, but your effort was not enough’ your child will remember the accusation of what he or she missed and not the recognition”.
The idea leaves us with an interesting topic to think about, and reminds us to be careful with what we say before and after a “but”, and whether by adding “but” to everything we are missing the opportunity to enjoy people, situations, and achievements.
Letting the word “but” rest for a while is a decision that could bring us great satisfaction, as we celebrate more the step by step process without worrying about all that we are missing. This could be an even better decision at the workplace where the environment tends to be cold and extremely competitive. Our jobs are a great opportunity to give ourselves recognition without allowing the “but” be the main attraction. We shouldn’t praise mediocrity; on the contrary, we should celebrate where we are, looking forward to where we are heading, no buts about it.
(1) Merriam-Webster Dictionary
(2)Diplomado en PNL con consultoras certificadas. Empresa Selectos y Selecciones | Bogotá, Colombia | 2010.