Two little words.
One builds bridges.
The other builds fences.
Yet few of us are even aware of them.
And, to make things worse, most of us are building fences, without realising.
Is it time to break the habit and make sure your communication is building bridges, instead?
Let’s try it on for size:
“I really love your ideas, but we need to think about how we could make them work in practice.”
“I really love your ideas and we need to think about how we could make them work in practice.”
Notice the difference? How did the two versions make you feel?
The difference is tiny – ‘and’ versus ‘but’.
What’s the problem with ‘but’?
A ‘but’ completely negates and undermines the first half of the message. It can leave us not trusting what was previously said.
‘But’ can leave the other person feel like you don’t value what they said and have, perhaps, even dismissed their opinion.
Also, we’re hard-wired to expect bad news after a ‘but’. We’ve all been there:
“Your presentation was great, but…”
“I really liked the main course, but…”
“You played that piece well, but…”
It’s as though we’re trained to expect (or just fear) criticism, once we hear the word ‘but’. So using it, innocently, when that’s not our intention can backfire. It instantly makes the listener defensive and – in the worst case scenario – can even make them switch off and stop hearing what we’re saying.
What can we do instead?
The easiest way to get out of the ‘but’ trap is to use the word ‘and’ instead.
Want to try it on for size?
“Your presentation was great and…”
“I really liked the main course and…”
“You played that piece well and…”
Notice how, after hearing ‘and’, we’re almost expecting more positive feedback? It completely changes the tone of the communication dance.
How about trying it out for a day, swapping ‘but’ for ‘and’? It won’t take long to notice how much more positive a response you get.
Warning: this simple change could dramatically improve your relationships!