“No” and “But”: verbal STOP signs

I recently attended some meetings at which a lot of new ideas were discussed. Some of them were pretty wild—definitely out-of-the-box ideas. Nearly all of the participants reacted very negatively to the new ideas and spent a lot of time explaining why they wouldn’t work. It was like a rugby scrum of naysayers piling on the poor little new ideas.

Why do we do this? Is it a defense mechanism? New + I don’t understand = it must be bad.

I’ve found it’s worthwhile to not react negatively to new ideas. I’ve trained myself to hear something new and ask: “What would happen if it was successful? Would things be better?” If I answer “yes” to either question I then ask myself “What do I need to do to make this new idea work?”

And don’t get me started on “but.” We have a rule at our team meetings: no one is allowed to use the word “but.” Using “but” is a sneaky way of disagreeing with someone, without being open about it.

“I really like your idea, but help me understand how it will work.” Translation: I think your idea has no chance of working.

“We can try it your way, but I think the way we always do it is also effective.” Translation: We’re not changing the way we do things.

“That’s a fabulous sweater, but the color is so unusual.” Translation: Did you look in the mirror before you left your house?

“No” and “but”—take them out of your vocabulary at work and I think you will find it’s much easier to get things done. I found it really hard to do this and I still catch myself trying to say “but” about 20 times a day. I swap “and” for “but” and this completely changes the tone of the discussion.

“I really like your idea and you can help me understand how it will work.” Translation: I want to know more about what you’re suggesting.

“We can try it your way and I think the way we always do it always do it is also effective.” Translation: We’ll give your idea a try with the safety net of what works today.

“That’s a fabulous sweater and the color is so unusual.” Translation: I’ll get you one for your birthday! (OK, maybe “and” doesn’t work every time!)

This makes the atmosphere at work more open and the interaction with your colleagues more constructive. No? I could be wrong, but…

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One Response to ““No” and “But”: verbal STOP signs”

  1. Siggy Linda says:

    Thanks for pointing this out! I use ‘but’ pretty often even when I’m not against a new idea. And the solution is soo simple! Your pointer not only makes interaction with colleagues more constructive. What about spouses, family, business partners…. I can’t wait to try out this new game!

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