A little semantics…but, but, but

The university I studied in believed in two things: a lot of individual work and a lot of teamwork (not much left, is there??!). During our endeavors into teamwork, we had the chance of working with many different people, and experiencing many different styles of discussing. One of the people I worked with has burnt himself into my memory particularly, due to the fact that he would always say the following words in a discussion:”I completely agree with you, but maybe we should also consider XYZ.” Already during my time working with him this sentence seemed completely incongruent to me and I never realized why. BUT, now, I know why….

One of the most important aspects of hypnosis is the use of language and the use of words. In general, one aspect we pay too little attention in our communication is semantics. Semantics is defined as the “aspects of that are expressed in a language, code or other form of representation” (wikipedia.com). More important than what we say, what words we use to express it.

Now, the word “but” is a “common conjunction in English used between two or more clauses, which often implies the immediately following clause will be the limit, difference, or focal point of the original clauses”(ibid). In effect what it tends to do is negate the part of the sentence that went before, and focus on the part after. So, by saying “I fully agree with you, but”, in effect, my friend was wasting five words: I fully agree with you. If he had, how could he have possibly said anything after agreeing with me?

Richard Bandler used to say “You can always smell the but coming”, and he is right. Long before people say the magic negation, the tone, posture and content of the sentence will give them away. And even more than just negating the first part of the sentence, the word “but” also tends to break rapport (more on this concept soon), and it can lead from a friendly discussion to an argument with hardened sides. So, what to do?

Simply replace the word “but” with the word “and”. That’s it. While this might seem like a simple idea, it is actually less than easy at the beginning. Why? Simply, because we are so used to “butting” in, that’s why. Just go ahead and do it, and notice what effect this has on you and on others. It will sounds weird at the beginning, because your own neurology is expecting a but, and “and” might feel out of place, yet it achieves so much more.

The word “and” strings ideas together and creates rapport. So, if you are talking to someone and want to introduce your point of view, find something you can agree with in their argument and link it to your idea with the word “and”. That way, you are agreeing with them and it makes it very difficult to disagree with you, as you are agreeing with them. Of course, this has its limits (more on this, also soon), and what it does is give you a slight edge in the communication process. So, go ahead, reserve “but” for special occasions, and for everyday use, use “and”, and notice the effect this has…


6 thoughts on “A little semantics…but, but, but

  1. Interestingly enough, my ex wrote a post on almost exactly the same subject as this not long ago. For political reasons it’s been agreed that I can’t link to her, but it’s very interesting. Her perspective was entirely different, but basically concluded the same thing: But is a mostly unnecessary word. According to the rules of logic it can always be replaced by and if the sentence is logical.

    It’s just another example of negative language inserted to twist words into an emotive state. It’s an emotive word, used to negate beliefs by overwhelming them.

    Very interesting…and it just shows how powerful the tiniest words can be.

  2. Kenzie says:

    I am finding your entries very entertaining. In a good way, of course. I hope you don’t mind that I put you on my blogroll.

  3. Alvin says:

    I wrote a post similar to this before as well…just not as nicely presented/worded. Somehow, I feel more inspired by your words, than my own. hahaha.

    Anyway, there are also some people who don’t even bother to use the word BUT…..they will straight go into the negative statements. Those that use BUT…is trying to sound nice and at the same time….voicing out their opinions (and sometimes, ignoring whatever you said…they just want to let you know their views).

    Hopefully people will start to learn how to use AND to replace BUT. “Your plan is good but i think you should change this” ….with “Your plan is good and i think if you can enhance this a little..it’ll make wonders”.

    But (oops) how many people can actually do this?

  4. Izabel says:

    Very interesting… never stoped to think about it…. now I am curious….

  5. Phantomias says:

    Kenzie, I am honoured to be on your blogroll. If there is something I can do to make the articles even better, please do let me know.

    Alvin, please leave a link to your post so I can check it out….

    Izabel: And being curious is great, because it makes you listen to all the things people say at work, and now you see it in a new light!!

  6. Matt says:

    One of the great side effects of using AND instead is that it seems to keep people’s attention as they are expecting and end to a sentence that doesn’t arrive and when one doesn’t come they find that their “buffers” overflow which has the wonderful side-effect of taking them in to trance and this allows you to lead them in to some delightfully enlightening and compelling places… 🙂

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