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Removing the “Buts” 

Have you ever tried to remove the negative language from your vocabulary?  Well let me tell you it’s pretty tough!  I talk quite a bit about reframing negatives to positives in many of my seminars and workshops, and I usually ask my participants to catch me saying the word “but.”  I am trying very hard to eliminate that word from my own vocabulary. 


Recently at one of my seminars I had asked the participants to let me know every time they heard me say “but.”  During the last 20 minutes of an all-day seminar I did say “but,” and one woman pointed it out to me.  After thanking her and then continuing on with the presentation I found myself say that word 2 more times in my next two sentences.  By this time the whole group is in on it and yelling out the word and rolling in the aisles laughing, because now I seem to have a “but” on my brain!  At this point, all I could do is laugh myself,  take a deep breath, think about what I wanted to say next, and reframe all my sentences into positives without the word “but.”


So here’s my issue…whenever we hear the word “but” in a sentence it tells us to ignore everything that was just said and only listen to what follows that word.  Here’s a classic example.  Your boss comes up to you and says “Susan you’re doing a great job, but I have a couple things I want to talk to you about.”  At this point you feel like you are not doing a good job and you are in trouble for something.  Right?  Now, what if instead your boss had said this, “Susan you’re doing a great job, and I have a couple things I think you can do even better.”  Don’t you feel much better after hearing the second statement?


One more word of caution—be careful of the word “however.”  This word is just a gentler “but.”  It still tells the listener to ignore what I just said and only pay attention to what follows.  So join me in trying to eliminate those negatives from our vocabulary.  Talk to your coworkers, clients, friends, and family in the most positive way, both verbally and in written form.


Valerie Kendrick, President Kendrick Resources LLC

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3 Step Process for Better Business Writing

1.    Get to the point right up front
  • Benefit–puts your reader in the right state of mind, saves time, and moves the process forward
2.    Make the last line a call to action
  • Benefit–clarifies expected results and leads to achieving goals
3.    Make sure the details are easy to find by using bullets, lists, and paragraphs separated by white space
  • Benefit–reduces frustration and leads to deeper understanding
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