January 4

Words That Matter, Part 9

January 4, 2016

Personal Growth

We’re often careless with our words, and some of them are so laden with negative meanings that we cause great harm without realizing it. Recently I began a discussion of such words,
Words That Matter, Part 8
Words That Matter, Part 7
Words That Matter, Part 6
Words That Matter, Part 5
Words That Matter, Part 4
Words That Matter, Part 3
Words That Matter, Part 2
Words That Really Matter

and now we’ll continue:

BUT . . .

Rarely do I have a conversation where I don’t hear some variation on the word “but”:

“But they . . .”
“But I didn’t . . .”
“But . . .”
“Yes, but . . .”
“I hear you, but . . .”

The problem with this word is that it’s become a socially acceptable way of failing to listen—and to justify our strong desire to be right. The truth of these expressions of “but” includes the following:

“I’m not really listening to you. I want only to express my opinion and to have you both listen to me and agree with me.”
“I want you to believe that I’m listening, but I’m not.”
“I know I have some responsibility for the mistake we’re discussing, but I’m so afraid of being wrong that I’m going to work very hard to convince you that I’m guiltless.”
“I’m dying to persuade you to believe the same as I do about this.”
“I’m pretending to listen.”
“I have only one goal here: to be RIGHT. Being wrong would be an intolerable assault on my sense of worth.”
“Whatever we talk about, I’ll eliminate any possibility that I made a mistake. I will blame everyone else, including you.”

So, often what we’re saying and what we really mean are very far apart, and until we begin to be truthful at least with ourselves, we have a life-sucking problem that perpetuates itself. As we become more AWARE of our use of the word “but”—and what it means—we can begin to learn how to genuinely listen to others, and how to stop the blaming and self-righteousness that keep us alone.

In future blogs we’ll discuss more words that have a much greater negative effect than we realize or intend.

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