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  • Dr Kate Owen

Stop Saying "BUT", Start saying "AND"

Updated: Apr 4

How do you feel when you hear the sentence “Yes, but…”?


Often people describe feeling a variety of emotions from a slight “sting” to feelings of indignation, rage, hurt, or invalidation.


The “but” implies that somehow you got something wrong.


Let’s look at this from the other side of the conversation. What message are you trying to portray to someone when you use the sentence “Yes, but…”?


Often we want the person to understand that what they did, thought or felt was not quite right. We want them to see our point of view. We think that we are right.


What would it feel like if we started saying “Yes, and…”?


Let’s take a common example of a couple in a relationship. Sally and Jim are a happy couple but they often argue about money.


BUT

  • Sally: “I want us to go on a holiday this year”.

  • Jim: “A holiday would be good, but we need a new car”.

  • Sally: “You never want to have any fun”.

AND

  • Sally: “I want to go on holiday this year”.

  • Jim: “A holiday would be good, and we need a new car”.

  • Sally: “How can we do both?”


By changing the sentence to accept that all opinions are valid, the conversation opens up. Discussion is encouraged and further conversations can be had.


Let’s take a common example of a parent and teenager. The teenager wants to go to a party without parental supervision.


BUT

  • Teenager: “You can trust me mum. I won’t do anything stupid”

  • Mum: “I know I can trust you but there is no adult at the party”

  • Teenager: “That is unfair!”

AND

  • Teenager: “You can trust me mum. I won’t do anything stupid”

  • Mum: “I know I can trust you, and also there is no adult at the party”

  • Teenager: “That is unfair!”


As you can see, changing “but” to “and” might not always change the outcome!


What it does is influence the way that people experience the conversation.


The conversation acknowledges that all views are equally valid.


In Family Therapy the term to describe this is called the “double description”.


So do an experiment today. Stop saying “but” and start saying “and”.


Notice how you feel in the conversation and notice how the other person responds to you. It will not be life changing! At the same time, you might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.


Please note that this is general advice only.

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© 2019 Dr Kate Owen