Don’t stick your “but” in the face of an angry person.
~ Marshall Rosenberg, Founder of Nonviolent Communication
Your “But” Doesn’t Help
Our words have great power to create the world we want. How often have you followed up an affirming statement with a “but”? Consider this example: “I really enjoyed your presentation, but you could have done this better.” The other person probably heard this: “Blah, blah, blah, blah, BUT you could have done better.” Yes, it’s likely that the “but” erased all the words that came before it. That means your desire to affirm and support the other person is lost in the shuffle leaving only your advice. When we’re wanting to build a relationship, it’s important that our entire message is heard.
As Marshall Rosenberg indicates, using “but” when talking to someone experiencing anger may be especially problematic. When angry, a person is likely wanting to be heard rather than hearing advise or instruction. When you “stick your ‘but'” in their face, you might trigger a negative reaction rather than helping the person be heard.
An Alternative: “and, at the same time,…”
In the book “Being Genuine,” by Thomas D’Ansembourg, the author suggests that we use language that “opens us up to new possibilities” and states that, “any use of but causes us to split our awareness by canceling out or diminishing the first proposition.” He recommends this alternative: “and, at the same time,…”
Wow! Reading this recommendation again reminds me of my practice of translating my “buts.” I feel excited because I’m wanting my language to be as effective as possible. My desire is to use language that connects rather than words that confuse or bewilder. Since I discovered D’Ansembourg’s alternative years ago, I have held a strong intention to translate my “buts” into “and, at the same times.” As I’ve lived this intention, I’ve found that people can much more easily hear my concerns and my affirmations.
I invite you to practice translating your “buts” into “and, at the same times” and see what you discover!