No buts about it: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. That saying holds true in business. No matter what your industry or function is, your success depends greatly on how you communicate. One simple tip I picked up years ago and have used both in sales and management is substituting the word but with the word and. Every time I hear a sentence that has a “but” in the middle I cringe – knowing that bad news is coming or the person is discounting my idea. Think about how you react when you hear it and try to listen to yourself when you say it. It’s simply a negative sounding conjunction.
Read this sentence out loud:
- “I see your point John, but I believe we need to try it this way”
No matter how you say it, John is tuned out and on the defensive as soon as he hears the But in your sentence. Plus your tone is naturally going to sound dismissive of John’s idea.
Now read the same sentence aloud with the word And in place of but:
- “I see your point John, and I believe we need to try it this way”
You soften the blow a bit for John and the connotation of the word and is positive giving a feeling of being on the same team. Plus it leaves open a possibility we can come back to John’s idea later if need be.
It works in sales too by defining what is and is not negotiable:
- “We can discount the labor rate by 10%, but our material cost will be $20 per pound.”
- “We can discount our labor rate by 10%, and our material cost will be $20 per pound.”
By using but in the first sentence you imply that the only reason you are giving a 10% discount is because you are staying firm on the material cost – this leaves you open to negotiation. By using the word and in the second example it’s more of a statement of fact and not negotiable.
No matter what you say before the word but I have found your audience will only focus on the fact that you do not agree with them, or you cannot provide what they are asking for. By using the word and you channel a more collaborative feeling with your communication and can achieve a greater level of results. Whether it’s in managing a team or selling to a prospect.
Give it a try – you may be surprised with how easy it is and how much more receptive your audience will be.
– Jared Balint