When Sarah shared, “I believe the children are our future,” Jennifer retorted, “I agree, but parents create tomorrow.”
When Jennifer responded with the word but, she effectively tossed Sarah’s idea aside and replaced it with a completely new one. This irked Sarah, for while Jennifer did not openly oppose her idea, Sarah received a clear signal of Jennifer’s disagreement.
While, Jennifer may not have intentionally rebutted Sarah’s statement her use of but trivialized Sarah’s contribution and suggested that it may have been inadequate in thought.
But offers contradiction, it presents conflict, and suggests the moving away from the speaker’s intention.
When we want to agree or pay homage to another’s statement we should use the word and. If Jennifer had said, “I agree, and the parents create tomorrow.” She would have given Sarah’s idea the full attention it deserved, even as she offered up a different idea.
Now, there are two equally powerful statements and each has a place in the discussion. Neither is bigger nor smaller, and the conversation is now expanded and open to new possibilities. The word “and” increases the size and scope of discussions. It also allows the creation of multiple solutions to everyday challenges.
Joan wants to go to the evening yoga class. Her kid needs to be picked up at 5 p.m. Yoga starts at 5 p.m.
Joan thinks, “I want to go to the 5 p.m. yoga class, but I have to pick up my kid.” Joan’s mind hears this as either yoga or pick-up-the-kid, two opposing options with only one possible outcome. It is impossible for the mind to perceive that the two could co-exist. The mind perceives either option as a constraint of the other.
When Joan restates her thought, “I want to go to yoga and I have to pick up the kid,” her mind no longer perceives a conflict. Picking-up-the-kid and yoga are two ideas that co-exist. When Joan begins to think about how the two objectives can be accomplished she can adjust her words to: How can I pick up the kids and make the yoga class?
This rephrasing generates several options. “Perhaps, my husband can do pick-up duty on yoga days,” or “perhaps I can attend a studio with childcare services.”
And is a powerful word that joins seemingly impossible thoughts, expands the horizon of our thinking and minimizes conflicts. We are not confined to either or; we are free to partake in infinite possibilities. And is a great word to add to our toolkit and retrain ourselves to use. Since practice makes perfect, try this for a week: When responding to another person use the word and when you are inclined to say but. (Even if you said but quickly restate the sentence with and.) See what happens.