Kick “but”

Yesterday, I complained about complaining. I’m sick of it.

Today, I want to talk about a topic that is somewhat related — the word “but”.

I have a friend who loves to talk about business ideas. And one day, when we sat down to exchange a handful of ideas that we each had brought, I reacted to his enthusiastically; yet when I presented mine, he would list some negative reason for why my idea wouldn’t work: “but it’s been done before”; “but I don’t know how you would do that”; etc. Were his ideas better formed than mine? I guess they could be but I doubt it. This one exchange with my friend was pretty typical of every exchange with him. It was a classic meeting of optimism versus pessimism.

And I have another friend who hates his job and wants to quit. And whenever I encourage him to find something else, his response is “yes, but…” and then he lists off reasons why he shouldn’t.

And how many meetings are held in corporate America where someone has a decent idea and a grumpy middle manager says, “yes, but…”

I haven’t met to share business ideas with that one friend in nearly year. I haven’t talked with my other friend about quitting his job in months. And meetings? I avoid those like the plague!

Pessimism sucks. It takes the wind out of the sails. It destroys the possibility that a half-decent idea can be turned into a good idea or even a great idea.


One of the best remedies of pessimism was put to good use by Pixar Animation Studios (although whether they originated the idea or not, I don’t know). They made a rule that ideas had to be “plussed”. That is, rather than negatively detracting from the idea with a pessimistic “yes but we can’t do that” response, meeting participants had to instead add to the idea. They had to “plus” the idea to make it better.

That doesn’t mean every idea will move forward; it does mean that everyone’s ideas are considered creatively and in a positive and accepting environment.


On a related note, one of the biggest impacts I had on my sales presentations was to replace the word “but” with “and”. I’m not a pessimistic person but it’s easy to let the negativity of the word “but” creep into your sales message so you can come across as pessimistic even when you don’t want to.

About 10 years ago, I read a sales book that suggested I swap the word “but” with “and” (and adjust the sentence accordingly). I tried it and it was a subtle but very successful difference!

So instead of saying, “Yes, we can do that but it will cost you extra”, I might say something like “Yes, we can do that, and we can do a number of other value-added services for a small additional fee.” Swapping “but” for “and” changes the feel the sentence and forces you to stay positive.

(Note: I’m not sure what book I read this in. If I come across it again, or if someone else knows who said it first, please let me know and I’ll attribute it appropriately here).

So kick “but”… out of your language.

Published by Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and other books.

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