Language Lesson #1: BUT != AND but BUT = AND

4499091102_2afe1aec05I've always been an analyst.  I love analyzing what is getting in the way, what has me doing certain things, and what underlies a lot of our behaviour.  If you're a regular reader of our blog, you've probably noticed that my posts tend a little more towards analysis, and Bay's posts tend towards simply being great relatable writing. Today I am starting a new series of posts, looking at some of the language we use, and how it impacts our lives.  The title of this particular post represents an important piece of knowledge I learned while taking symbolic logic during my undergraduate degree.

In terms of logic, BUT and AND have the exact same value.  If you tell me: "Adam went to the store, and I got an ice cream", we could break that down into two statements:

  1. Adam went to the store
  2. You got some ice cream

But, if you tell me: "Adam went to the store, but I got an ice cream", we could break it down into the exact same two statements:

  1. Adam went to the store
  2. You got some ice cream

Logically, but is the same as and.  (And, I intentionally used But to start that previous sentence off).

However, for the most part, we don't treat But this way.  We treat it as a negation of the statement that precedes it.  So, if I say: "I would love to be a lawyer, but it takes three years of law school and a year of articling to get there", that statement could be broken down to:

  1. I would love to be a lawyer
  2. I won't be a lawyer, because doing so requires three years of law school and a year of articling

We use "But" as our reason to shut down most of our dreams (most may seem dramatic, but if you consider how few of our dreams most of us manifest, it's accurate).

We don't just do this to ourselves — we do it to everyone around us as well.  I'm a terrible culprit of this.  I listen to the person of me speaking, all the while gathering up my own case, and then when they finish, I say "I see your point, but…".

This is a lot like saying: "Thank your for being done speaking.  Here is my point..."

My invitation is to intentionally replace your use of the word but with and.  Eliminate but from your vocabulary entirely.  Replace it with and and see how things go.

[Tweet "Eliminate but from your vocabulary entirely.  Replace it with "and" and see how things go."]

I was working with someone the other night.  When I asked them what they wanted, they said: "I guess I could try to create a romantic relationship, but I don't want someone who is emotionally insecure.  And I don't want to always be taking care of someone; I want them to be able to stand on their own two-feet.  And I don't want to have someone else leeching off me financially".

I invited them to stop using but as a reason they couldn't have something, and to instead, break down their sentence.  Here's what we got:

  • she wanted a romantic relationship;
  • she wanted a partner that was emotionally secure;
  • she wanted a partner that was able to take care of themselves; and
  • she wanted a partner that has a decent job;

Phrased this way, the complaints can actually become requests, and we can start to look at what she's going to need to take on to find these types of people.  Until we broke it down this way, her but simply provided the list of reasons that she would never be able to create a romantic relationship and should just accept that she was not going to date ever again.

Changing your language isn't the end of the journey, but it's a place to start, and until you develop the ability to hang out in the realm of what you want (coaches call that "Possibility"), you won't be able to start creating it.

So change that language.  Turn your buts into ands, and see what shows up for you.  (For bonus marks, leave a comment and let us know what you notice).

Where do you use but as a way of cutting yourself off from possibility?  What would you have to let go of to let yourself hang out purely in the realm of what could be, without coming up with reasons that you can't have it?

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