The Word To Erase From Your Vocabulary

Stevie Ray is a brilliant improv guy and internationally-recognized speaker. I had the good fortune of meeting him this past week. As we were talking after my program, he offered several insights related to research about human behavior. He said that when we use the word "but" it effectively erases anything said prior to the use of the word. For example, if someone is commenting on an idea of mine and says, "I like your idea BUT here's my thought," the goodwill offered by their saying they "like my idea" is lost and I perceive them to only want to go with their idea.

Of course the conversation jump started my thinking about what to do to minimize my use of the word. Here are some of my initial strategies:

  • Just leave it out. Instead of saying, "I like your idea but..." say, "I like your idea. Another one to explore could be...."
  • Ask for their reasoning behind the idea or comment. Ask, "What do you see as the benefits of this choice?" An additional benefit is that you might get to the motive of their choice and if at odds with them you can agree on it before moving on to solutions.
  • Play out the scenario with the idea. When you say "But" it shuts down the other person's desire to discuss options and makes them defensive. Let them finish fleshing out their idea and give them the opportunity to see (from your perspective) potential obstacles with the choice.

Those are my thoughts. I'd welcome any from you. Email me... and I promise not to use the word "But" if I see things differently.