March Tip: No more ‘Buts’!

Given the world we’re in, it’s getting harder to deny that the words we use and how we use them can have profound impacts on our lives. Simple statements of belief or opinion can create conflict and challenge friendships.

When I was getting my coaching certificate from the Newfield Network in 2005, we were challenged to be precise in our language. We were asked to reconsider using the word ‘feel’ for ‘think’ and not give into “I think I feel…” That was one of my favorites and a hard habit to break.

The hardest one to adopt was changing the word ‘but’ to ‘and’ when responding to people or even making statements. We learned that ‘but’ basically undoes whatever has been said before. We might think we are offering another idea to the mix as opposed to just shooting it down; that, however, isn’t how it usually lands or how it works.

Angeles Arrien, a brilliant cultural anthropologist, writer and teacher, described some people as ‘Yahbuts.’  These are the people who, when you offer an idea that is meant to help with something they’ve just shared, counter with “Yeah, but…” They respond that way to every idea or offer that differs from the story they are holding onto. You know you are with a Yahbut when that is the reflexive answer to pretty much everything that is said to them.

We all have the capacity to be Yahbuts.

The replacement word for ‘but’ is ‘and.’ It changes the duality of either–or to both–and. It allows another idea to exist as possibility and opportunity. It invites exploration. It opens the door to the unexpected.

It is a powerful and seemingly simple thing to do. It took training for me to catch myself and replace ‘but’ with ‘and.’ I was surprised at how free I felt to invite other ideas into my mind.

Give it a try and let me know how it works!