The Power of One Single, Small Word

At work, we are faced with many hurdles. They can range from personality conflicts to reorganization and downsizing. While many of those hurdles are out of our control, there are some that we can control. We often are not aware that we place these hurdles ourselves.

One of the greatest barriers we face in both work and life is a single, small word. This can take the greatest of ideas and relegate them to the scrap heap. It can demoralize and demotivate. Many people use it daily with far-reaching, unintended consequences. In fact, most of the people that use the word don’t fully realize the power that it carries. What is this powerful word that robs us of ideas and motivation?

The word is but.

While this may initially sound odd, [but] carries powerful negativity along with it. By using in a sentence, it can discount any positive notes or emotions that came before it.

How does this sentence sound?

“You did a great job on this project, but…”

Read through that sentence once more.

Upon reaching [but], you anticipate a negative conclusion. You might wonder, “what did I do wrong?” or “what is coming next? At this point, you are no longer focused on the praise and instead are focused on the criticism you feel is coming. You’re now on the defense. Using but in sentences immediately brings negativity into the conversation. It doesn’t matter what follows but in the sentence. The entire sentence has now taken on a negative tone.

Consider the outcome of this sentence if [but] is replaced by [and]. What kind of impact would that have?

Let’s take the example sentence and substitute and for but.

“You did a great job on this project and…”

Read through that sentence again.

The elimination of a single word has changed the impact of the sentence. Do you think the second sentence will lead to a far better conversation? Which one would you rather be on the receiving end of? Replacing but with and moves us from negative interactions to positive interactions.

Give it a try and see what happens!