reason 60

Reason is a monthly missive from the partners of Essex Two, a vertically integrated communication consultancy. We invite our readers to think in new ways about their business, their customers and the opportunities for meaningful communication between them. Joseph and Nancy Essex

Removing Our Buts  Losing weight, getting in shape, and taking better care of ourselves are all noble pursuits and worthy of a serious new year’s resolution. However, you may have noticed this “but” has but one “t.”

How many times have we heard it said, “That’s a great idea, it would go a long way toward solving our problems, but it’s unrealistic, impossible, difficult to coordinate, will cost too much money, it never worked in the past, that’s not how we do things, can't be done on time and/or the client/customer will never buy it?” We may have actually said these words ourselves.

Phrases that follow the “but” word kill momentum, exploration, examination, innovation and generally reduce our ability to think creatively. When the word “but” is used it becomes acceptable to move on. We give ourselves permission to change the subject even before the subject is established.

Our experiences tell us that the “but” response is reasonable and probably correct. We are reminded that when this happens or that occurs the results are almost always predictable. Finding answers to difficult questions is challenging and when we accept that what we have doesn’t work we are obligated to suggest alternatives. The longer the questions have gone on and not been resolved the more daunting they are to attempt. One thing is for sure. When the “but” response is made it almost always ends the thinking process.

Consider this.  We would love to tell young people about our products but they don’t read newspapers the way previous generations did. Both ends of the sentence, while accurate, don’t stimulate the thinking process because no questions are indicated.

Grammatically speaking, the word “but” is a conjunction, linking thoughts that are juxtaposed to each other. By replacing the “buts” with “ands” (a less judgemental word) the disparate thoughts no longer cancel each other out.

Example with a “but”:  We would love to tell young people about our products but they don’t read newspapers the way previous generations did. Both ends of the sentence, while accurate, don’t stimulate the thinking process because no questions are indicated.

Example with an “and”:  We would love to tell young people about our products and they don’t read newspapers the way previous generations did. Now the focus is on what other ways there might be to connect with young people. The “and” asks questions. The “and” creates an environment of possibilities, alternatives and hope.

The first stage in attempting to solve any problem, resolve any conflict and achieve any goal is to define the task in terms that permit it to be accomplished. By removing the “buts” from our thinking and replacing them with “ands,” we provide ourselves with the opportunities to consider every possible alternative without the obstructions of grammatical baggage.

Removing the “buts” from our thoughts and ideas allows us to ask questions designed to accomplish goals and address greater themes. When “buts” are removed it is like an interstate highway when the resurfacing is completed. It is so much easier, quicker, and more pleasant to get where we want to go.

Essex Two has built its reputation on discovering new ways of addressing old issues that promote the understanding and participation of our clients’ audiences. Visit our website and review our proprietary tools and exercises we use to help our clients get where they want to go.


Worth your time:  A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Our family has recently finished listening to the 13 books in the series on CDs, in the car, read by Tim Curry. Every trip to and from school, kung fu class, the grocery store etc. has been accompanied by the disastrous events that have plagued the unfortunate Baudelaire siblings. In mostly 20-minute installments we have collectively shared an undiluted experience. The by-products are the real ROI; conversation, expanding vocabularies, better listening skills and enhanced communication among all of us.

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