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Changing one little word! But

By  Babette Bensoussan, PCC, MP-ELI, MBA, The Decision-Making Maverick™ 

Five years ago, I came across a wonderful suggestion from my friend and colleague Leanne Buttrose.  I asked her at that time to write a little note about this which I shared.  Since then, I have been regularly practising this suggestion.  

“How to change your energy and everyone around you by changing one little word!

In the year 2000, I was introduced to a simple and yet incredibly powerful change in my life.  I removed the word “BUT” from my vocabulary. At the time I learned this, I didn’t realise what this change would mean to me and the hundreds of people I have shared this concept with.

The greatest challenge was to not replace it with a “but” in disguise.  We know these words as – however, although, nonetheless – although there are many more!  “But” simply means; everything I said before this word is null and void. For example, the party was great, but the food could have been better.  So was the party great or not?

I found that I became very conscious of my sentences and that “but” was my way to buy time and think.  It was what I used instead of a pause or full stop in a conversation or when presenting.

The most profound discovery was in my written words.  I used “but” in emails, documents and papers, and it gave them a negative overtone when that was not my intention. I used it in sales pitches and PowerPoint presentations when trying to make a point. I was a “but-aholic”!

So how did I change this?  I replaced the word “but” with “and”. While at first, it felt grammatically incorrect, it forced me to stop and think about why I even wanted to say the word.

I found in conversations, I started to pause, think and then continue without using the word.  In written communication, it forced me to rethink the whole sentence because when you remove the use of ‘but’, you often have to phrase the entire sentence very differently.

Here’s an example: ” I’m sorry I didn’t finish the report, but I received your email too late.”

Instead, you might say: “I’m sorry I didn’t finish the report. I received your email too late, and I will do my best to finalise it by the end of this week.”

I have shared this with leaders who now write their messages to their customers and staff coming from the “Yes… and” perspective. They have found it easier to create more positive energy through their communications.

WOW! To think removing just three little letters from our vocabulary can hold that much incredible power.  And I have been practising it ever since.  It really does make a difference.

A great way to make sure you’re following “Yes… and” is to exercise self-awareness.  Self-awareness is the secret weapon for lasting habit change. 

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