Consider how your "but" is getting in your way.
Have you ever let a “but” get in the way? It’s a simple part of speech, but that one word can transform a sentence and the perceived message for the listener and the speaker. It can break up a thought, transition to an explanation, or provide an excuse. How often do you find yourself using phrases out of habit and not necessarily thinking of what they really mean? Being mindful of what you join together in your speech can make a difference in how you think, act and feel.
But, I’ve Ruined the Apology
Consider a good apology, ruined by a “but” between the apology and the justification for what you are apologizing for in the first place. “I’m really sorry for hurting your feelings, but I didn’t realize you’d be so upset,” sounds different than, “I’m really sorry for hurting your feelings. I didn’t realize it would be so upsetting for you and I’m sorry.” The way those two statements are processed is different. “I’m sorry, but…” implies that you’re sorry, but it’s not totally your fault. “I’m sorry.” implies that the apology is a complete thought, even though you do offer your reasoning, the apology stands alone.
But, I’ve Discounted the Experience
How about “I had a great time, but there was a really obnoxious kid talking at the top of his lungs”? Did you have a great time? Yes. Was there an obnoxious kid? Yes. While the loud boy may have detracted somewhat from the overall experience, you admit that it was great. Allowing yourself to simply experience the “great” can be a game changer. When you verbalize the positive, it isn’t forgetting the negative or pretending it didn’t happen; rather it is being mindful that you don’t need to give the thing after the “but” power by acknowledging it again.
But, I’m Powerless
“I’d like to be more fit, but (I’ve never been a runner, the air in China is terrible, I have to attend networking events at the bar for work, etc.). Often, “but” is used to provide a rationalization or justification to yourself as much as to others. You have a goal and then a reason for why you haven’t achieved that goal. When this relates to self-improvement, it is easy to look at other forces that stand in your way and explain away inactivity. What if you were to stand this “but” on its head and rather than explaining why you couldn’t do something explain how you’ve been able to do something? “I’d like to be more fit, but because of the poor air quality, I’ve started working out at home and found that I actually like doing Insanity with Shaun T.”
We're not advocating for the elimination of the word “but” from your vocabulary, but do consider how joining your two thoughts can change their meaning and be mindful of how you link up your thoughts.