A few weeks ago, irritated a bit by the extensive usage of the word but in our office conversations, I proposed to the team I work in to run ‘no buts meetings’. While not every but is as obnoxious as using the conjunction in phrase structures like “you did a great job in the project, but…”, to keep things simple the proposal was to skip all buts. Same for synonyms like however, still, though.
As the meeting unfolded, we realized that it was a challenging task to keep the conversation clean and the sentences to the point. We often seek to smoothen our tone in business conversations and it sometimes backfires in the form of confusion, unclarity and exaggerated politeness.
While some suggest using words that have the same meaning, my proposal is to shorten sentences and use a full stop or a comma instead of ‘but’.
“I feel you did a great job on the project, but there were things missing…” becomes “I feel you did a great job on the project. There were also some things missing…“
In this way the praising part of the statement does not get polluted with the slightly negative tone of the reproach sentence. Pausing a bit after the full stop allows the receiving end to take in the compliment and feel proud of their results.
So, here’s a challenge, should you accept it: run as many ‘no buts meetings’ as possible. And one final tip, make it stress-free! If the word does slip in, it’s ok! It will be better as you keep practicing.