Nov 09, 2022

I recently dared myself to take the word “but” out of all my texting.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word “but” is used as an adverb, conjunction, or a preposition.  Perhaps we can ask our 5th grade girls (I think it’s pretty safe to assume that our boys would have no idea) to remind us of what those are. 


Whatever part of speech it is,  the word “but” is usually used to introduce something that contrasts with or negates what has already been said.  In  situations where communication is sensitive, this small word can cause negativity, downer vibes, defensive reactions or unnecessary hurt.


What I noticed in the last few weeks is that most often, the word “but” can easily be replaced with the word “and.” The first clause of the sentence isn’t minimized and both clauses are equal in value. You can also make the two parts of the sentence into two separate sentences, leaving out any linking words. These few changes can remove the negative feelings that the word “but” can cause. 


When apologizing to others, it’s a time to be sensitive about using the word “but.” “I’m sorry that I hurt you but…” or “I love you but…” Very often, these words are just used to soften the blow for what’s about to come and mean everything but I love you! 


Sometimes, we truly want to convey a positive and negative message together, and we feel that the word “but” is absolutely necessary.


For those who are extremely attached to “but” here’s some good advice: Start with the negative thought and end with the positive. Use the positive phrase after you use the “but”. Feel the difference between the sentences below.


“I love you but I’m very upset that you forgot to call me.” vs “I’m very upset that you forgot to call me but I love you.”


“Supper was delicious but we ran out of rice.” Vs. “We ran out of rice, but supper was delicious.”


When discussing this concept with a client of mine, she was trying to figure out how she can say “I love you but you’re an idiot” in a less confusing way to her husband. She was really spending time in the session trying to figure that out. I saw her mind working hard. I was proud of her. Finally she said “you know what? You’re right. I’m going to take out the but. I will just say “you’re an idiot.” She was proud of her ability to take out the but. BUT, she wasn’t quite there yet. And I felt like an awesome therapist.


As she was leaving the session, she turned around and said “Maybe I will just say I love you. And explain to him why I was hurt.”


Small changes can go a long way.  


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