Buddhism’s Eightfold Path, Right Speech: And Versus But
You have a great idea during a brainstorming session with colleagues and right after you take the risk of sharing your idea someone chimes in with, “Yes, but…” and goes on to share their idea. How do you feel? Most often people feel belittled and stupid, like their idea is not worth much and not valued by the people sitting around the table. Using the word but subliminally tells the person you are talking to that their idea holds no importance and your idea is better.
Now consider this:
You have a great idea during a brainstorming session with colleagues and right after you take the risk of sharing your idea someone chimes in with, “Yes, and…” and goes on to share their idea. How do you feel now? Most often people feel like they have just been validated and the creative process is building among a team of great minds. This in turn will help you feel more comfortable taking risks and sharing your ideas. Using the word and in conversation is inclusionary of all ideas present.
You don’t have to agree with the idea just presented to use the word and. It simply means that the person who just spoke before you has valuable information to contribute to the conversation and you find it stimulating enough to respond with another thought.
Try this exercise:
For the next week, every time you feel the word but coming out of your mouth, substitute it with the word and. See how it changes the dynamic of the conversations you have. Do this with your family, friends and colleagues.
When I learned of this linguistic shift several years ago in a seminar called Empowering Multicultural Initiatives, I noticed a profound change in how my conversations with people ended. I began to see their ideas in more positive terms due to the subtle language of and. I began to see that even though I might not always agree with what they were saying I valued their thoughts because they got me thinking in turn.
Very Buddhist thinking, I think. And, I hope you find it useful! Share your thoughts with me in the comments.