Updated: Apr 19
Parenting (& Relationship) Tip - Replace "But" with "And" to transform your communication
Michael S. Sorensen is a business executive by day and a bestselling author, speaker, and relationship coach by night. He writes:
“When used to connect two phrases in a sentence, the word “but” essentially dismisses the first phrase altogether. This isn’t always an issue, but when it undoes praise, agreement, or an important point, it can start to become a problem… Imagine you’re meeting with your manager at work one day to sync up on a few projects you’re working on. The day prior, you presented a project that you and your team had been working on for weeks and you feel quite proud of how it turned out.
During your conversation, your boss turns to you and says:
“You did a great job on that project last week, but—”
Stop. What is he going to say next? You obviously don’t know for sure, but you’re almost certain it will be negative. “Uh oh,” you may think to yourself, “I screwed up.” You’ve already forgotten the compliment (he said you did a great job on the project) and have moved on to worrying about what he thinks you did wrong.
Now imagine he says:
“You did a great job on that project last week, and—”
Now what? You still don’t know what he’ll say, but you do know that he thinks you did a great job on that project. He could say just about anything he wants to now, and it wouldn’t detract from the fact that you did a great job.
He may say, “…and there are a few things I’d like you to pay closer attention to next time,” or, “…and I noticed a few errors…” and the feedback is still far easier to hold.
From working to parenting to dating. This principles applies to just about every area of life. Whether you’re in an argument with your significant other (“I understand why you’re frustrated, and I didn’t mean for it to come across that way”), parenting a young child (“I know your tired, and you still need to clean your room”), or even turning down a second date (“I had a great time, and I would prefer to just be friends”), this simple switch makes a noticeable difference.
I’ve even found this swap valuable in my own thinking. For example, where I once would have thought, “I did really well up there, but I totally missed that third point!” I now think, “I did really well up there and I totally missed that third point!” Notice how the first sentence dismisses the fact that I did well and focuses on the mistake, while the second allows both points to be true.”
Jeff Mowatt is a customer service strategist, award-winning speaker, and bestselling author. He writes:
“Imagine expressing your heartfelt, articulate opinion about an issue. The other person responds with, “Yes, but…” The moment we hear the work “but”, most of us anticipate that not only will the person disagree with use, but that they haven’t heard or valued what we just said. When negotiating, people who are perceived to be poor listeners have zero credibility. The lesson: when you disagree, replace the word but with and. For example, you might respond with, “Yes, and here’s another thing to consider…” It’s a way of disagreeing without being disagreeable.”
Leadership blogger, Angie Morgan writes:
Have you ever received a backhanded compliment? “You’re a really great presenter, but with more experience, you’ll be better.”
Or, have you ever received feedback that was well-intentioned, but just rubbed you the wrong way? “The project you put together is excellent, but before it gets submitted it just has to get a grammar review.”
Those “buts” are just annoying. Why are they there, anyway? I get it … conjunction, junction, what’s your function, hooking up words and phrases and clauses….
...There are other words that connect ideas – and I can think of one, in particular, that could transform the sentiment of these sentences. That word is “and.” Go on, try it right now with those sentences. I know that when I hear a positive statement, followed by the word “but,” it negates everything positive that I’ve just heard.
Sometimes, there’s no need for a “but” or “and.” Maybe positive feedback should stand alone. The same goes for negative feedback. If you want to tell someone in the moment that they did a great job, and you want them to feel pride, give the praise … and stop there. If you have development ideas for them, save it for later.”
Now apply this to various parenting scenarios:
Your tween wants a cellphone but you aren’t ready for that yet.
“I hear you saying you want a SmartPhone… that all your friends have one. And, I’m not feeling comfortable with that yet. I need to understand how to support you with this, and I need to be understood too…”
Your toddler wants a cookie right before bed after having brushed teeth already. You don’t want to brush her teeth again and you know sugar on her teeth at night isn’t good for her oral hygiene.
“You want a cookie. And mommy is saying is no. That must feel hard. How can I support you right now? What do you need? Will a cuddle be nice for you or another short story right now?”
Your teenager wants to take the family car to a party tonight. You’re aware that there will likely be exposure to alcohol that night and peer pressure is on the horizon.
“I understand that you want to take the car to the party tonight. And I’m not okay with that. Can we talk about some other options for tonight?”
Let’s make a commitment to supporting our kids with more “ands” instead of “buts.”