top of page

Small words make a big difference.

Today we're going to look at how using two small words can make such a difference to how you can make people feel.

Those words are "but" and "and".

Perhaps you can relate to this when someone has given you feedback, maybe in your appraisal at work, a teacher, a parent. They generally start off with "Thanks for the report but ........", "You played well today but .........", "Dinner was lovely but ........"

Most of the time after the "but" comes some feedback about how you can improve.

So what happens when we hear the word "but" in the sentence? Generally we don't hear the first part, so if you are giving someone praise and then a "but", they won't hear the praise as all they will hear is the word "but". 

As soon as you say the word "but", the brain will go into defence as it feels it's about to be attaked. For those of you who have read The Chimp Paradox, you will understand the "Chimp", emotional brain compared to the "human" logical brain. If you haven't read the book, personally I think it's great.

When we feel we are about to get feedback we don't want to hear we automatically get defensive. We can't help it. Think of a time when someone has told you something you didn't want to hear. How did you initially react? I know my brain normally goes "here we go, there's always a but". 

You probably went away and reflected a bit, justified a few things to yourself and then perhaps thought "okay, they have a point or dug your heels in and decided you were right anyway :-).

If you want to keep rapport with someone, continue to make them feel valued and give some feedback to help them improve use the word "and".

Let's look at a sentence to show you exactly what I mean here;

"It's sunny today but tomorrow it's going to rain."

When you read this sentence or say it out loud you will notice you hear or focus on the second part of the sentence more than the first.

"It's sunny today and tomorrow it's going to rain."

Your brain will naturally hear both sides of the sentence so the person will pick up on the praise, the feedback will be better received rather than defensively received and your relationship remains in rapport.

Now imagine how powerful this can be in helping people achieve goals, improving your relationships with people and still getting your point or feedback across.

You could even flip the sentence so for example you could say;

"Your report could be improved but thanks for getting it in on time".

This time the power in the sentence is in the thanking. Little changes can make such a difference in how you leave people feeling.

Communication is powerful, use it wisely.

bottom of page