Do you find yourself inadvertently walking into arguments with your spouse and others? Not sure why? Perhaps, you’re sticking your big BUT into the conversation.
After beginning the effective communication and listening skills activities with Dr. Abigail Hirsh at the Power of Two Marriage coaching website, I discovered that I was unintentionally saying BUT in my conversations with Mr J and others. I learned that this use of but can take a perfectly well-intentioned conversation and transform it into an all out battle of the will and wits.
How can we keep a conversation from going sour? With active listening and the simple elimination of ‘but’.
When we’re listening to our partner’s concerns, we naturally want to share our version of the story and describe what is also bother us. So, what happens is we say we agree, only followed by the use of BUT to segway into our thoughts and feelings. What happens? We’re unintentionally negating everything our spouse said, making it seem that everything they said was inconsequential and our thoughts, perceptions, and feelings are more important. Even if we know this isn’t true, it sure doesn’t sound like it when we say BUT. It’s as if we’re taking the conversation into two diverging directions, rather than uniting our efforts to address a common problem, while meeting both parties needs at the same time.
I learned instead of saying BUT, we can say AND and AT THE SAME TIME. Saying these phrases maintains the validity of your partner’s statements while addressing your own concerns. By using “and” and “at the same time” we’re pushing the conversation into the same direction, illuminating the situation with information that can help your couple solve problems as a team.
If you want to take active listening a step further, ask “How” and “What” questions to learn about your spouse’s perspectives and feelings (not I feel like you, but rather emotional feelings like sad, upset, worries) and express only your feelings and concerns without assuming theirs.
Personally, I’ve been working on this for months now and the sound of BUT makes me cringe. I realized how negative BUT sounds and how it can take conversations into opposite directions, rather than into one constructive direction.
If you’d like to hear Dr. Abigail Hirsh’s explaination and practice an activity for free at the Power of Two Marriage website, visit the Delete ‘But’ Activity. If you’re new to Power of Two, check out my review of the marriage coaching website.