Get off your buts and be honest about what you want
No, this isn’t an article about fitness. Or cigarettes. It’s about the countless ways we sabotage ourselves with the way we talk.
Behold the underlying truth
Take the common word “but.” It’s peppered throughout our conversations. If you break the word down into its individual letters, though, B-U-T — could signal “Behold the Underlying Truth.”
Think about it. Whenever you say, “I’d like to go, but ...” or “That’s a good idea, but ...,” the beginning of the sentence doesn’t even register with the listener. The word, “but” discounts everything that comes in front of it.
The weasel word
How can a little three-letter word have so much power? Because it’s a weasel word that allows you to severely limit yourself — even lie to yourself — without even knowing it. Ouch!
“But” can be a dangerous word because:
• It puts people on the defensive.
• It makes others think there’s a catch.
• It reduces your point.
• It negates everything you said before it.
Think about it. The next time you hear a friend say, “I’d like to get together with you next week, but ...,” how serious are you going to take her?
“But” usually signals: ignore that other good-sounding stuff that went before — here comes the truth.
“I’d like to help you move, but ...”
The truth is you’re not going to show up. The lie is that you care so much about helping your friend that you’ll go out of your way to do so, regardless of what else is on your platter. Or you’re just trying to be nice — an intention that can often backfire because it gives people false hope.
At this point — stage right — are two of “but’s” dearest friends — “if only” and “try.” “If only I didn’t have these other projects on deadline, I’d be on my way over. I’ll try to get there tomorrow.”
Unless, of course, you’re too busy, too tired, too (fill in the blank with one of your favorites).
Just listen to yourself for the next few days and see how many times you catch yourself starting a thought and inserting a “but” halfway through. If a little slang is injected, it almost mimics the sound of a frog (yeahbut, yeahbut, yeahbut ...).
I once attended a seminar in which the instructor put a mark beside each of our names whenever we said the word “but.” She said she was going to charge us $5 for each mark. Needless to say, many of us were quite anxious about the marks that were ending up beside our names — and the tabs we were running up!
Fortunately, at the end of the seminar, she gave us a reprieve and didn’t charge us. She definitely made her point, though.
If you’re brave enough, you could enlist someone close to you to catch you when you slip up and use the word, “but.” Like my seminar instructor, he or she could say, “five bucks.”
I’ve found it helpful to substitute the word “and” in place of “but.” It still provides a connector between two independent thoughts. It’s a neutral connector — not one that discounts, though. It’s much more authentic, and it doesn’t leave people with false hope.
“I’d like to get together next week, AND I have a lot going on. Let me get back with you.”
“I’m juggling a lot of projects on deadline, AND I won’t be able to help you move right now.”
There is integrity in saying “no.” There is not integrity with leaving people hanging.
No ifs, ands or buts about it!
©2019 Linda Arnold Live Life Fully, all rights reserved. Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and Founder of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at email@example.com For information on her books, go to www.lindaarnold.org or Amazon.com.