the STRENGTH in “but…”

Say what you mean and mean what you say… 

The past couple of days have been jammed packed with work, family and personal life events keeping me away from writing and with all of these crazy busy days I was overwhelmed with the question of what to write about today… BUT I must share the STRENGTH in the word… “BUT…”

Such a little word… with so much power… three little letters… BIG responses 

How many times have you heard someone say… or said yourself… “I don’t mean to sound mean, but…” followed by something sounding very mean indeed??

I hear this all the time…

“I don’t mean to sound rude, but…”

“I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but…”

“I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but…”

And I literally JUST heard a woman say over the phone… “I don’t want to alarm you, but… grandpa is having chest pains.”

WOW… As soon as I heard the first part of the sentence I WAS ALARMED… and I don’t even know this woman!

The word “but” is extremely common throughout our day to day interactions… it carries a lot of weight and can be used as a protective language device to say something you know will hurt someone or may be inappropriate while asking for forgiveness as you say it.  A free pass in a way… BUT…

But – it’s not!  Perhaps I’m just extra sensitive and pay more attention than I should.  However (hehehe… I wanted to type “but”) as a result of being hyper-sensitive to this word I also try to observe others when they hear (or say) the word.  There is a very slight change in their demeanor and body language, slight, but enough to see it when watching for a reaction.  Depending on what “but…” is preceded by I’ve witnessed people put up defensive walls, shut down, loose interest, get angry, become alarmed, or completely tune out.  I feel the person speaking looses creditably when they rely on “but…” as a crutch or as a way of saying a something difficult in a back-handed way.

As soon as someone has this gut reaction they will go into: flight, fight, or shut down mode and the conversation has lost all potential.  You may have had great words to say, great thoughts, ideas, suggestions… the person you’re talking to will have the “but” on their mind which will place barriers and walls up all over.  I’ve found this to be true in both professional and personal life.

I challenge you to check yourself and think about if you have a “but” habit!  

Of course there are times and places when the word “but” is absolutely appropriate.  I did a little research on grammatical use of the word “but” which is called a “conjunction”.

A little Grammar 101:

Compound Sentences

Compound sentences are made up of two or more simple sentences combined using a conjunction such as and,or or but. They are made up of more than one independent clause joined together with a co-ordinating conjunction.

For example:

“The sun was setting in the west and the moon was just rising.”

Each clause can stand alone as a sentence.

For example:

“The sun was setting in the west. The moon was just rising.”

Every clause is like a sentence with a subject and a verb. A coordinating conjunction goes in the middle of the sentence, it is the word that joins the two clauses together, the most common are (and, or, but)

For example:

  • I walked to the shops, but my husband drove.
  • I might watch the film, or I might visit my friends.
  • My friend enjoyed the film, but she didn’t like the actor
Read more about conjunctions and compound sentences HERE
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