I was watching a television show with my 9-year old son the other day. The children's series focuses on 10-year old quadruplets Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn Harper, who have little in common, often fight and must work together to solve everyday situations. Sound familiar? Many adults face this type of challenge on a daily basis at both home and work.
My son often watches this show, and this time it caught my attention because I noticed all too familiar language used by a new character. The character is named Madison, and the quads call her "the but-er" because she's always one-upping them to prove she's better than everyone. Her strategy is to find fault in the positive things others are doing so she appears to be more smart, more popular, or more liked.
As I listened to the banter, I thought about how adults often use "but" in conversation. "I'm interested in the new role, but I don't have 100% of the qualifications or experience" or "We could revise the process, but we've tried it before, and it didn't improve" or "Our team collaborates well, but their team doesn't communicate." In these scenarios, the word "but" is being used. Whereas Madison uses "but" to position herself as better than others, in business settings professionals often use "but" to position why something isn't possible. When we listen to a 4th-grader like Madison, we can recognize her motive. Why don't we catch this more in business settings? This language occurs in various business situations: when dealing with ambiguity, conflict situations or maneuvering through change. Listening for the way "but" is used can help sort through the meaning behind the words.
How can you recognize more consistently what the phrase, "yes, but" is doing to you or your team's ability to find solutions to business challenges? What opportunities are missed because our "buts" are getting in the way? I suggest removing this language from your daily vocabulary can transform your ability to find solutions, deliver on goals and ultimately find greater success both professionally and personally.
Here are three approaches to start practicing.
Replace "But" with "And"
When you communicate, notice when you use the word "but" and begin to replace it with "and." While this technique may not work in every situation, I predict it will transform your communication in a way that will be noticeable to others.
Notice Language and Reframe
Increase your awareness of how others are using the commonly used qualifier and reframe what they say removing "but." This method has two purposes: 1) you will demonstrate support in what the other person is communicating and 2) you will allow them to hear it in their own words with a new meaning. New meaning can open conversation to new outcomes.
Train Your Brain
Replacing "but" with "and" is a good step toward increased collaboration, solution finding, and productivity. It's one thing to say the words and another to believe the possibilities of what "and" can bring. A can-do, solution-oriented mindset needs to couple with the verbal communication. Awareness that potential can be realized by removing the exception is necessary for real success.
We live in a world filled with complexity, challenge, and change. You have the choice to remove the "but-ers" language from your vocabulary as you strive to lead successfully through ambiguity to deliver results.
JAR Leadership Coaching is a results-oriented organization working with executives and teams to improve effectiveness in the workplace. We specialize in executive coaching, individual and team assessment and customized development for the sake of positively impacting results. For more information, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.jarleadershipcoaching.com