Dress: H&M (previous season)
Maybe the quote in the title sounds vaguely familiar. The original one is: “The details are not the details. They make the design.” I agree with Charles Eames and I also know that details make the message.
In my blogpost The details make the difference in the end I have mentioned how much more positive your communication sounds if you add the word ‘yet’. There is another small word that has got a great impact on the message you deliver; the word ‘but’. When you become aware of the power of this small word, I am sure you might want to use it much more consciously than you are probably doing right now. How so?
‘but’ negates all that goes before it
Let me give a few examples:
That’s a lovely jacket you’re wearing … but…
You did a wonderful test today… but…
I like your new blogpost… but…
No matter what comes after the word ‘but’, the first part of the sentence will be forgotten. That is because the word ‘but’ has got the power to undo everything that went before in a sentence and we tend to focus on what comes after the ‘but’. When you realise that ‘but’ negates or cancels everything that goes before it, you might want to consider how and when to use it.
I am sure you felt uncomfortable reading the above examples. Still, many of us tend to phrase a good tip like this:
You handled that wonderfully… but…(here comes the well meant tip)
Your spelling is good … but …(here comes the well meant tip)
Despite the best intentions of the speakers, the use of the word ‘but’ demolishes the effect they had in mind.
How to say what you want to say
A very simple way of avoiding this kind of feedback is to replace the word ‘but’ with ‘and’. It will probably sound strange at the beginning. Just keep using it and it will soon become quite natural. Let me give a few examples to illustrate the difference between the two:
That’s a lovely jacket you’re wearing BUT I think another colour would suit you even better.
That’s a lovely jacket you’re wearing AND I think another colour would suit you even better.
You did a wonderful test today BUT I think your spelling could be better next time.
You did a wonderful test today AND I think your spelling could be better next time.
I like your new blogpost BUT I think you maybe tried to pack too much into it.
I like your new blogpost AND I think you maybe tried to pack too much into it.
I am sure that the sentences with the word ‘and’ left you with a much better feeling than the ones with ‘but’.
How to use the word ‘but’ positively
You do not have to refrain from the word ‘but’ altogether. On the contrary, you can use it in a very positive way. Use it when you want to acknowledge something negative but emphasise the positive alternative.
That wasn’t your best test BUT I know you will do better next time.
You see how powerful this small word is in a sentence. Like with the word ‘yet’, I challenge you to make better use of the word ‘but’ when communicating. I am sure you feel how much difference it will make. Maybe you aren’t doing it yet, but I am sure you will from now on!