Get Your Buts out of Here
I’m currently about to close on a new home. I am excited about the prospect of a new living space. In fact, I had a couple weeks where I was inspired to design a family area.
In this area I have a TV/video game area, a video/green screen area, a music area, an exercise area, and a reading area. Although I haven’t decided on the format, I have designed images (think icons) all over the walls with sayings to inspire my kids or to use as teaching tools. I can’t wait to put it all together.
There is one part of the layout I particularly like. It’s some wording on the wall on the way into the room that says “Get your buts out of here…”
There is a reason for that. Just like most of the other items in the room, there is a story behind it. It’s a teaching lesson for my boys about the need to avoid the word “but”, and it traces back to a conversation with my mom.
I Love You But…
My mom was exceedingly patient. We had a great relationship although I had a different views on things. It was a testament to her patience and her willingness to listen despite differences that we had the relationship we did.
There was one particular time that I tried to persuade her that my view had some merit so I softened the blow (or so I thought) by saying “I love you, but…” Immediately my mom said “I love you, but?” I realized my error immediately, and by immediately I mean several days later.
“But” is an eraser. It does the job of wiping out the first part of the sentence. It has a way of negating anything you say before it.
“Johnson, you did a great job last year, but this year stinks!”
“Mary, you play the piano wonderfully, but your singing needs work.”
Both Johnson and Mary feel only the weight of the last part of the sentence. The first part is completely wiped away.
In the same way, I wish I had realized then what I know now. I was effectively wiping out my love for my mother.
Turning it Around
A better solution is to use “and”. In most instances, you can use “and”, instead of “but”, and simply tweak the sentence. “And” keeps the rest of the sentiment in tact.
“Johnson, you did a great job last year, and I know you can turn this year around!”
“Mary, you play the piano wonderfully, and we can work on your singing to make you well rounded.”
“And” is a lot more friendly, and a great way to use the power of the first part of your sentence to bolster some bad news.
But, I Like My But
So, “but” negates the first part of the sentence. Why do we have it? We have it because it negates the first part of the sentence. The best way to use “but” is when you want to negate the first part of the sentence.
For instance, if you have bad news to deliver, use “but” to turn it around:
“I know we didn’t win the pennant last year, but we were so close and we have a better team this year.”
“You may not have sold that painting, but you’ve sold 4 others this month and you are on your way!”
“But” is a wonderful way to purposefully erase bad news and overlay good news. It’s useful for removing something damaging and putting in something uplifting.
Wield Your Eraser
If we just remember that “but” is an eraser we can add more power to what we say. If we want to transfer the power of the first part of the sentence to the last, we use “and”. If we want to negate the first part of the sentence and turn it around, we use “but”. This will make our language more powerful, and inspire those around us.