But is Bad for Business

“Yeah, but…” As a coach those might be my least two favorite words. When someone says them I hear, “I agree with you. I think that idea is great. I’m not going to implement it and I don’t think it will work for me.”  It is basically a polite way of saying, “That idea is useless. Come up with another one.”

Anytime the word “but” is put into a sentence it negates whatever was said before it. A few other examples:

  •  I’m sorry, but… (I’m not very sorry because what happened has a justification)
  • You’re welcome to do that, but… (I would strongly recommend you not do it)
  • I’d be happy to help you, but… (I am too busy to make time for you)
  • I can do that for you, but… (this favor comes with strings)
  • That’s a good idea, but… (we won’t be doing that)

I have made a conscious effort to remove the word “but” from my daily vocabulary. When I feel myself getting ready to say it, I stop and ask myself “How much do I believe what I just said if I want to add a justifier on the end?” It was not an easy change for me to make so I know firsthand how hard it will be when I recommend it to my clients.

I recommend it anyway because removing it causes us to think more carefully about what is being communicated.  “Am I saying something I don’t mean and then double-crossing it by adding “but…” on the end?” Very often the answer to that question is yes. If that is the case, we are not being authentic and are heading down a path of miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Here are some phrases to try instead:

Yeah, but… Yes, and…
I’m sorry, but… I’m sorry… (Never put “but” after I’m sorry)
You’re welcome to do that, but… I wouldn’t recommend that. Here’s why…
I’d be happy to help you, but… My schedule is full that day. What about before/after?
I can do that for you, but… To do that I need something taken off my plate. Can you help me with…?
That’s a good idea, but… We aren’t going to be able to implement that. Here’s why…


Instead of detracting from an idea by using the word “but” add to it by using “and” or make your idea more clear by saying what you really mean (kindly) from the beginning. There is enough miscommunication and misunderstanding without our adding to it by using this connector word to change the meaning of what we are saying.

Do you agree?

As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!

Doc Robyn

PS - If you are interested in working with a coach, I'd be happy to have a conversation with you to discuss how I can support your success. All you have to do is ask.

Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer. As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence by sharing active leadership, powerful teamwork, conscious communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills. She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time. To work with her one-on-one, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, please call 302-307-3091 or email her at DocRobyn@ChampPerformance.com.


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