“I liked everything you did on the project, but…”
“You put in a lot of effort, but…”
“I did everything you asked. But …”
‘But’ is a set up for negativity. It’s telling the listener that ‘the other shoe is about to drop’. It’s letting judgment come into the picture so the listener knows they are never good enough. It’s training the listener to expect to be put down, to get their shields ready, to avoid really listening and prepare to get defensive instead.
Or, it’s letting you off the hook because you’re about to not take responsibility for something. Maybe you’re going to blame someone or something else.
If you want your employee or someone in your life to deeply listen, be engaged and empowered, can you really afford to put ‘but’ into your conversation and coaching?
Practice: Ask someone to count how many times you let ‘but’ creep into your conversation. Make it a fun exercise that helps you improve your way of speaking to people. Share it with your staff or family and eliminate ‘but’ from all the conversations in your workplace, family or friendships.