Do My Comments Make My But — or However — Look Big?


| josh@ihatelongemails.com |

One of the quickest ways to end a brainstorming session is to say, “I like your idea but…” — you can substitute however for the same effect. Nothing good will follow that statement and the world’s most powerful vacuum cleaner just sucked out the positive energy and enthusiasm from everyone in the room, including the person who made the but statement.

So how can you disagree with someone and still keep the positive energy flowing and the other people motivated to remain engaged in the conversation?

You can substitute and, insert a pause, or use butor however in a strategic manner. Your word choice matters and the more attention you pay to the emotional impact of them, the more people will confide in you.

Build Bridges with a Pause or And

Let’s say a manager is leading a meeting with her sales team to discuss what types of laptops or tablets they should use.  She opens the floor by asking for their input. The first person says, “I think we should buy iPads.” She responds by saying, “Yes, I know, iPads are great but they’re expensive and I don’t see how we could afford them for the entire team.”

Whoooosh, all of the energy and enthusiasm went right out the door. Compare that response to, “Yes, I know, iPads are great” (everyone expects to hear a but or however) and she gives them, “(pause) tell me more about the costs and how we could afford to buy them for the entire sales team.” This comment invites constructive dialogue to gain useful information and respect the opinions of others.

A response with and could be: “Yes I know, iPads are great and they are quite expensive. Tell me more about the costs and how we could afford to buy them for the entire sales team.” The speaker’s tone of voice also conveys either a sincere interest in learning more and respecting the opinions of others or shutting them down.

The Best-Case Scenario for But or However

There’s still a place in the world to use but or however. If you would like to convert a bad situation into an inspiring call to action, insert but or however. Those words, along with a sincere tone of voice and candid body language, will cancel out the sting of the negative event and start the process of bringing your team together to overcome a challenge.

For instance, assume the sales manager from the scenario above needs to inform her team about a 45% drop in sales from the previous quarter along with the plan to reverse that trend in the current one. Now she can use but or however to cancel out the negative vibes from the bad news in order to focus on motivating the team.

She could say, “We experienced an usually large drop in sales last quarter — but — we have a plan to reverse that trend and here’s what we’re going to do.” The key here is that but is attached to negating an event, not a person or someone’s idea.

In your next meeting, use a pause or and in place of but or however. You will find yourself structuring your comments in a positive, inspirational direction to engage others instead of shutting them down. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this strategy.