One of the very best lessons I have ever learned is to replace “but” with “and.” With a deep bow of gratitude to Jack Anderson, my former colleague and mentor from my Ace Hardware days, I have implemented and changed my thinking entirely with this simple and effective tactic. Here’s how it changes lives for the better.

  1. ‘But’ is used, in large part, inaccurately. ‘But’ negates the previous part of the sentence which then begs the question – should you have stated the first part of the thought anyway? Better yet, break the thought into two separate sentences. If one negates the other and it’s useful and purposeful, keep it in there – if not, get rid of it.
  2. ‘But’ contradicts and should be used only where applicable and very carefully even then.
  3. Using ‘And’ immediately changes the outcome for the better. And is a positive directive – it wants to join with other words to make progress.
  4. ‘And’ is more fun to say – again, the positivity therein leads you forward, instead of holding you back as ‘but’ does.
  5. ‘And’ can more accurately be used, liberally and often.
Dan & Edie, far left, me, far right at TEDxNapaValley 2015

Dan & Edie, far left, me, far right at TEDxNapaValley 2015

When I read magazines, newspapers, websites and other written material I’m often confounded by the misuse of ‘but’ where something else should be and would be better. The simple action of pausing to consider your words before you write them down and say them in the case of ‘and’ and ‘but’ will definitely move your forward.

A classic improv comedy technique is to build on the moment of comedy with a partner by saying “yes, and…” It reverses the “no, but…” which is absolutely what we want to do. Here’s an excellent article featuring Charlie Todd, founder of the freakin’ brilliant Improve Everywhere (tip: subscribe to their stream).

One of my TEDx classmates gave a talk on improv and how to do comedy successfully. It was really cool and interesting to hear what he shared and then his acting exercise with his fabulous wife, fellow comedian Edie, during his talk. Here it is for your enjoyment and education as well. It makes me think and laugh every time I see it.

And is a word of coordination and togetherness, something we all need and want.

Replace your ‘But’ with an ‘And’ and we’ll all be better for it. I think jack would approve.