You know, I have a lot of favorite books. Narrowing it down to a single most beloved would be impossible for me. There is one book though, that certainly ranks close to the top. Chances are you’ve read it, or at least heard of it. It’s one of the most influential books of all time, and has been around since 1937. It’s called, How to Win Friends and Influence People, written by Dale Carnegie. If you haven’t read it, I seriously suggest you follow that link to Amazon and order a copy. I try to read it at least once a year.
It’s a basic guide to people skills, written in a simple and masterful way.
Anyway, there is one lesson from it in particular that I have always loved. The “but vs. and” lesson.
And, it’s really this simple… Instead of saying the word “but” when you’re talking to people, change the word to “and.”Structure the rest of your statement exactly the same and you’ll be amazed at how your communication changes.
“Marge, that dress looks beautiful and I think another might look even better.” Sounds a lot better than it would if you replaced “and” with “but,” doesn’t it?
“Jim Bob, you’re a really awesome guy, and you do tend to come on a little too strong sometimes.” While still a message that Jim Bob over there needs to back the heck off, it’s far less intrusive than saying it with the word but instead.
“Sally Sue, you did great on your review, and unfortunately we’re not going to be able to give you a raise this year.” Is Sally Sue still going to be hurt? Absolutely. Not getting a raise sucks. And, it’s less painful than the phrase being, well, phrased with the word but instead.
To me, the word “but” immediately takes away all sincerity. “You did great on your review, but…” makes a person feel not good enough, insufficient, and far more absorbent of any criticism. Saying it with the word and lets a person believe that she really did do well on her review. The word but cancels out all positives. The word and reinforces them.
“You’re very pretty, but I wonder if your hair would look better if you didn’t wear it in a bun all the time.”
“You’re a pretty smart guy, but this time you missed the point.”
“I love you, but right now I can’t be around you.”
I think the hardest thing about eliminating the word but is that it often feels so unnatural at first. Perhaps reading some of these just didn’t sound right to you when you first did. I know this was the case for me. It sounded awkward when I first read about it, and it sounded really awkward when I really started putting it to the test.
And, what I found was that nobody ever batted an eyelash. Nobody ever thought twice about it. And, with time, it became far more natural for me. It sounded less and less weird. It’s taken a few years, and I think that I’ve made good strides in making it a permanent habit when talking to others.
Now, the real tricky part… not using the word but when talking about myself. It’s just as harmful, it’s just as absorbed, and it only hurts me. “I know I’m sexy, but I have too much hair growing on my ear lobes.”
Anyway, I just read the book again and was reminded of it, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on it with you.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
PS. Anybody else live by this rule of thumb? Anybody else find it awkward at first? Do you agree that it’s a better way to phrase things, or do you think the message remains the same? Anybody else read this book and/or love it as much as I do?