but, but, but…

I’ve been spending time on planes lately, and have had plenty of time to catch up on my reading. (Well, I made some progress, but I’m really not caught up.) Some of the books have been better than others and some have been quite astonishing.

I was struck by this advice offered in a book on conflict:

“But” is the eraser on a pencil…”But” erases everything that came before it. People …believe what they hear after “but” rather than what comes before it.

This matches my experience.

When someone says “I agree with you, but…” it feels like they are disagreeing, in spite of the first part of the sentence. When someone says “You did a good job, but I would have like the report sooner,” the focus is on “I would have like the report sooner.” The first part of the sentence is wiped out.

Then he author goes on with instructions on where to properly insert the word “but” in a sentence in conflict situations.

I think there’s a better way. Rather than fuss with which clause goes before the “but,” replace “but” with “and.”

“I agree with you and I’d like to offer a different view related to this point.”

“You did a good job and I would have liked the report sooner.”

“I was really frustrated and it was wrong of me to yell.”

Using “and” lets people focus on both clauses… and often that’s the only way to move forward.

“And” is a powerful way to begin to diffuse conflict. It lets both parties get past arguing the facts and get onto talking about what they both want.