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Coaching Leadership

Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”

If failing to communication is one of the biggest mistakes of leaders, starting with a “no,” “but,” or “however” is anathema. Now, we may not think much while slipping these words in our day-to-day conversations, but they act like subtle qualifiers that say, “I’m right, you’re wrong.”

And the messaging doesn’t change regardless of the friendliest or the sweetest tone that you use. Naturally, people upon hearing these words bottle themselves up when you want them to open up. The exception maybe with the person who also believes in “winning” at all costs — you’ll end up having a highly unproductive conversation, the one that goes nowhere.

I think you can tell how this habit can seriously impede one’s interpersonal communication skills. Unlike most habits, this is an easy one to fall into, and most people go through their entires lives getting by this heinous crime before someone (crazy like me?) points it out to them.

The big question here is how do we stop this thing from stifling conversations and killing relationships. Easy — keep track of all the times you start a sentence with a “no,” “but,” or “however” for a week. You will be shocked by the results.

If you want to up the stakes, keep track of the number of times your coworkers use these words. You will be surprised and see interesting patterns emerge. Like people using the phrase to assert, gain power, and even control the narrative.

Is it worth it? No. But if you care enough, check with your coworkers, closest friends, and loved ones, to see how using these words have impacted them. The insights may compel you to change your habits, for good.

Alternatively, you can try this tip from Marshall Goldsmith:
You can also easily monetize the solution to this annoying behaviour to help yourself stop. Ask a friend or colleague to charge you money every time you say, “no,” “but,” or “however.”

Be warned that the tip above can get a little expensive if you go one for more than a couple of hours.