Don’t “But” Me! How and When to Use This Common Conjunction in a Conversation

Veronica Powell, PhD

Estimated Read Time 3 Minutes

When it comes to communication, the word "#but" can often be a signal for disagreement or dismissal of what was previously said.

However, let’s not forget that the word “but” can also be used as a conjunction to introduce a contrasting idea or statement.

It is important to understand when to use the word "but" in a conversation, as it can change the entire tone and meaning of what you are trying to convey.
First and foremost, consider the #tone and #bodylanguage being used when saying "but." Saying the word with a #sharp or #dismissive tone can make the person on the receiving end feel #invalidated or #dismissed.

For example, stating "I understand what you're saying, BUT..." It would be better to rephrase this statement as "I understand and acknowledge what you're saying, “And” I also have my own thoughts/perspective on the matter."

Conversely, using "but" in an #argument or #debate can be useful to present opposing viewpoints or counterarguments. However, even in this case, it is important to phrase things tactfully and respectfully.

For example, "I agree with what you said, but I also want to bring up a different perspective."
Additionally, using "but" too frequently in a conversation can interrupt the flow of communication and create tension. Using filler words like "but" can also make a speaker seem #insecure in their ideas and unsure of how to express them effectively.

Be mindful that using "but" in a #confrontational manner can #escalate an already #tense conversation and create further #conflict. For example, saying "I understand your opinion, “BUT” you're wrong" directly challenges the other person's beliefs and can provoke a #defensive response.

In situations like this, it may be helpful to use language that shows #understanding and #empathy, such as "I understand where you're coming from, however, I have a different perspective." Using words like “however” or rephrasing the sentence altogether helps to maintain a #respectfultone.

A final nugget to take into consideration when to use or not use “but”.  In casual conversation with #friends or #family, using the word "but" may not have as harsh of an impact (of course this depends on the conversation and if it is a hot button issue). However, in #professional or #formal settings, using "but" too frequently can communicate a lack of respect for others' #opinions and #thoughts.

In summary, it is important to consider the tone and intention behind using the word "but" in a conversation and how it may affect others.

Using alternative phrases such as "however" “and” or "on the other hand" can effectively convey a contrasting idea without potentially undermining others' thoughts or opinions.

Additionally, using "but" as a means of excusing or justifying negative behavior must be avoided.

Overall, while there are circumstances in which the word "but" can be used effectively in communication, it is crucial to consider how it may be perceived by others and if there are more respectful ways to convey contrasting ideas.

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