I like the idea, but...

Recently my daughter returned from a geography trip with the school and on her return rather than relate the beauty of Iceland immediately proceeded to regale me with stories of the arguments between the girls. The sentences often started with I do like Mary but.Every time this small word but appeared I knew the next part of the statement would negate the first part and invariably be negative.

But is such a small word, it seems tiny neutral and harmless. It isnt. In the workplace it is the most popular form of issue raising and because it is so common it carries with it the baggage of abuse. This small word is often used to refute or devalue the position of others.

An example of this usage might be: I like your ideas for enhancements to the new product but we cannot afford the extra delay. In this example a positive statement one is made followed by a but and statement two with a bad implication. Our intention may be acknowledge through statement one and then add statement two raising concerns. Unfortunately what the receiver hears is often a rejection of statement one. Immediately the two people are in a form of conflict.

Many people will have experienced the corrosive nature of but at appraisal time with the praise sandwich. It usually goes something like this. I really appreciate the work that you have done in improving customer feedback and reducing complaints but your team has reported that you have an aggressive management style. The second statement has completely devalued the first and as soon as but appears it is a forewarning that bad news is on the way!

What are the alternatives?

Replace but with and.
This does often work. The use of and should be handled with care as it can sound forced or a but in disguise.

Use other conjunctions
There are many other alternatives with the same meaning and because they are less used their effect is benign. Such examples include despite that, however, although, yet, all the same, nevertheless.

Raise questions
Rather than making firm statements think about moving to problem solving and encouraging a debate. In the example above the change in expression would be I like your ideas for enhancements to the new product, I wonder whether we can afford the extra delay? Immediately you have raised your concern without devaluing the other persons idea.

Controlling the usage of buts in your vocabulary will help to keep conflicts constructive, but

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