During a recent workshop I was explaining about a simple tip that my friend Liz used to remind me about that can help avoid or defuse conflict. Simply using the word 'And' instead of 'But'. It can make a huge difference to how another person hears what you say to them.
'For example,' I explained, 'You will try to give helpful feedback to someone by saying something like 'I really think that you did an excellent job, but you need to try to finish on time'. Yet the other person will most likely only hear everything after the 'But' and the compliment will be lost on them.
'Now hear how differently this sounds: 'I really think that you did an excellent job and you should also try to finish on time.'
'And' not 'But'.
I scanned the audience to check their understanding and everyone was nodding and smiling. Except for one very attentive elderly woman. Her face was blank and she looked confused. So I repeated my explanation, finishing with 'So remember, it's 'And' not 'But''. She still looked worried. So I repeated it again, this time looking directly at her. 'You should try not to use the word 'But', and use 'And' instead. Her face suddenly relaxed and she nodded.
'Oh,' the very prim and proper woman said. 'You're saying 'And' not 'But'.
'I thought that you were saying 'Hand on Butt'.