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Practicing Effective Communication: ‘But’ vs. ‘And’ Statements

Anchor Light Therapy Collective

Dec 23, 2023

Why should you avoid using ‘but’? It can come off to someone as attacking and immediately put them on the defensive. These ‘but’ statements come naturally and can sometimes hurt the workplace, your relationship, or your subconscious. Find out why you should replace ‘but’ with ‘and’ in statements and see real-life examples of this technique.

Using the Word ‘And’ Instead of ‘But’

Using the word ‘And,’ you channel a more collaborative feeling with your communication. This is important to both people because it improves the chances you’ll agree. Whether you’re addressing conflict with friends, partners, or children, leveraging productive language is critical for everybody involved. Try to say positive statements using the word ‘And’ more often. Swapping ‘But’ for ‘And’ improves your statement’s delivery and feedback reception. For example, In the workplace, comments using ‘But’ like this are common:

Using ‘But’

“Sam, you made good progress this year, ‘but’ I know you still can improve your numbers.” Sam can tune out and get defensive when they hear the ‘But’ in his supervisor’s comments regarding his job performance.

Using ‘And’

“Sam, you made good progress this year ‘and’ I know you can improve your numbers.” This softens the blow a bit for Sam, and the connotation of “And” is positive. The use of ‘And’ still connects the two statements more positively and gives one a feeling of being on the same team.

 

10 Examples of ‘But’ vs. ‘And’ in Dating/Couples Conversations

This is an essential tool that I use in Seattle couples counseling. A slight change goes a long way toward making the other person feel loved and not attacked.

  1. “I had a great time and would prefer just to be friends,” versus “I had a great time but would prefer just to be friends.”
  2. “I see that you are upset, and I need to honor my feelings too,” versus “I see that you are upset, but I need to honor my feelings too.”
  3. “I feel hurt by what you did, and it would be helpful next time if you could say that differently,” versus “I feel hurt by what you did, but it would be helpful next time if you could say that differently.”
  4. “I love you, and we need to look at our spending habits,” versus “I love you, but we need to look at our spending habits.”
  5. “We are going to your parents this year for the holidays, and next year, I would like to visit mine,” versus “We are going to your parents this year for the holidays, but next year, I would like to visit mine.”
  6. “I know you are tired, and I need to take 20 minutes for myself. Can you watch the kids?” versus “I know you are tired, but I need to take 20 minutes for myself. Can you watch the kids?”
  7. “You make me laugh, and I appreciate our conversations about our different perspectives,” versus “You make me laugh, but I’m not sure we share the same values.”
  8. “I know we haven’t been dating long, and I feel really comfortable around you,” versus I know we haven’t been dating long, but I think things are moving too fast.”
  9. “You’re really close with your family, and I find that very endearing,” versus “You’re really close with your family, but I’m worried I won’t fit in.”
  10. “I feel like we have a lot to learn about each other, and I’m looking forward to it,” versus “I feel like we have a lot to learn about each other, but I’m not sure we have enough time to really connect.”
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10 Examples of ‘But’ vs. ‘And’ in Parenting Conversations

You may recognize yourself saying these statements often. In family therapy, I often stress the importance of word choice in sentences. Children follow our examples, so avoid negative language and say ‘and’ more often.

  1. “You worked hard on your science project, and I’m proud of your dedication,” versus “You worked hard on your science project, but I wish you had started it sooner.”
  2. “I see you’re upset about your soccer game, and it’s okay to feel that way,” versus “I see you’re upset about your soccer game, but you shouldn’t let it ruin your day.”
  3. “You’ve been spending a lot of time with your friends lately, and it’s great to see you so social,” versus “You’ve been spending a lot of time with your friends lately, but you’re neglecting your chores.”
  4. “I understand math is challenging for you, and I’m here to help you with it,” versus “I understand math is challenging for you, but you still need to do your homework on time.”
  5. “You did a great job cleaning your room, and now you can invite your friends over,” versus “You did a great job cleaning your room, but you missed organizing your closet.”
  6. “It’s late, and I appreciate that you’re finishing your book report,” versus “It’s late, but you should have managed your time better to avoid staying up.”
  7. “You’re very talented at art, and I encourage you to keep practicing,” versus “You’re very talented at art, but don’t forget to focus on your other subjects too.”
  8. “I know you’re not fond of vegetables, and it’s important to eat them for your health,” versus “I know you’re not fond of vegetables, but you have to eat them anyway.”
  9. “You’ve been really responsible lately, and I trust you to make good decisions,” versus “You’ve been really responsible lately, but I still worry about you sometimes.”
  10. “Your music is quite loud, and I appreciate your passion for it,” versus “Your music is quite loud, but you need to turn it down to respect others in the house.”

10 Examples of ‘But’ vs. ‘And’ in Self-Talk

Even using ‘and’ more when talking to yourself can create a better mindset. Self-talk significantly influences our mindset and well-being. Using “and” versus “but” can change the tone and impact of these internal dialogues.

  1. “I made a mistake, and I can learn from this to improve,” versus “I made a mistake, but I always mess things up.”
  2. “I didn’t get the job I wanted, and I’ll keep trying for other opportunities,” versus “I didn’t get the job I wanted, but maybe I’m not good enough.”
  3. “I’m feeling overwhelmed right now, and I can take steps to manage my stress,” versus “I’m feeling overwhelmed right now, but I shouldn’t feel this way.”
  4. “I’m not where I want to be yet, and I’m making progress every day,” versus “I’m not where I want to be yet, but maybe it’s too late for me.”
  5. “I am struggling with this task, and I can ask for help or find resources,” versus “I am struggling with this task, but I should be able to do it on my own.”
  6. “I feel disappointed about missing that goal, and I can set new goals moving forward,” versus “I feel disappointed about missing that goal, but maybe I’m not cut out for this.”
  7. “I have a lot to do today, and I can prioritize my tasks to manage them better,” versus “I have a lot to do today, but I’ll probably not get everything done.”
  8. “I’m not feeling great about myself right now, and I know that my feelings don’t define my worth,” versus “I’m not feeling great about myself right now, but maybe I’m just not good enough.”
  9. “I received some negative feedback, and I can use it to grow and improve,” versus “I received some negative feedback, but I never do anything right.”
  10. “I feel nervous about this new challenge, and it’s a chance to step out of my comfort zone,” versus “I feel nervous about this new challenge, but maybe it’s too hard for me.”

‘But’ Statements in Communication are Risky

Using the words ‘And’ vs. ‘But’ is one of the most effective tools I use with my clients. It can change how we think about ourselves and communicate with others. Simply used, the word ‘But’ negates whatever precedes it and can create a sense of defensiveness. Instead, saying the word ‘And’ creates a more effective and non-defensive conversation.

Embrace the ‘And’ Statement

The bottom line is that avoiding ‘But’ and saying the word ‘And’ gives more direct and constructive feedback while validating others’ feelings. Using ‘And’ allows you to share your opinion without dismissing the feelings and needs of others. If you need help improving your communication, individual, family, or couple’s therapy can help.

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