The “But” Heuristic

When you are in a dialog, especially in a written form, E-mail, Twitter, messenger service and you are answering to someone and your sentence starts with “But”: Delete the sentence and rephrase it.

“But” is often a dialog killer, virtually taking back what you just wrote, and also a hint for mansplaining happening.

“I don’t want to tell you what to do, but…” – I tell you now what to do.

“This is a good idea, but…” – It actually is a bad idea.

“I really like you, but…” – Get lost!

“Well, actually…” – The new “but” of too many men.

“Have you thought of…” – tough balance here – it can spark new ideas or simply mean “I know you are stupid, so I help you think”.

When you try to say/write/think “But”. STOP! Delete the sentence! When you already said it, excuse yourself and start to rephrase.
Think about what you really want to say.
Think about the person you are communicating with.
Think about the context.

Do you really want to kill the conversation, make a decision for someone else or tell the other person that they most probably didn’t think about this very important aspect that only you know? In most cases, I don’t think so.

Use “Yes, and…” instead. Try to be more supportive in your statements, don’t make the other person feel that you think they are stupid – even if you probably do! That is a sign of respect!

Communication is hard!

So, the next time you write “but”, think of me sitting on your shoulder, looking batshit grumpy at you. Stop typing, say sorry, delete the sentence, THINK, rephrase. Respect! That is what counts in most if not any conversation.


3 thoughts on “The “But” Heuristic”

  1. This article is constantly on my mind and I’m trying to apply it. I’m happy that you planted that idea in me.
    Still it’s hard to do.
    Especial on social media it’s not that easy to avoid the common short cut.

    How about expressing the very inner feelings instead of giving judgement? And being more precis.
    “I enjoy your idea because of aspect X. I feel uncomfortable for aspect Y.”

    A trainig of Non-Violent Communication showed me that direction and shaped me.
    (I prefer the term Appreciative Communication)

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