Eliminating the word “but” is like throwing a party for your brain.
Word Count: 465
Reading Time: About 90 seconds
As I sit down to write this, we’ve just come through another election season in the United States. The level of vitriol was unprecedented, our inability to remember all we have in common eroded by years of hateful, divisive language.
The time for communication superheroes was never more urgent. If that seems like a tall order, I’ve got good news: You don’t have to attain enlightenment or become a better, more peaceful person to make a difference.
You have to eliminate the word “but” from your vocabulary.
This one, tiny step has the power to transform your thinking. Once you accomplish that, you’ll be on your way to shifting our national dialog.
When it comes to the brain, practice makes permanent.
Here’s how it works: We’ve spent years practicing the language of division, polarization, and war. According to Daniel Coyle in “The Talent Code,” repeating an action, causes the brain to wrap that neural pathway in myelin, the brain’s insulator, which turns that pathway into an ultra-fast neural superhighway.
Lay down enough myelin and you’ve got a habit. Keep laying down myelin and you’ve got a fixation. Lay down more and it gets harder to see the links between seemingly polarized points of view. That’s how you know your mental rut has deepened into a foxhole.
Refusing to use the word “but” can reverse this trend by forcing us to hold two seemingly irreconcilable concepts in our mind. This invites the brain to make new connections, which it loves – this is how the brain parties!
If you’re ready to start myelinating a more innovative neural pathway in your brain, eliminate the word “but” today. Your brain will stutter, then gasp, and finally creak its way to new thoughts. Before long, your brain will be party-central, where all the new, innovative thoughts want to hang out.
Here’s what to do instead of saying but:
- Replace it with the word “and.” This is the fastest path to the party. In any sentence, the word “but” negates what came before it. Compare “I want to come over tonight, but I’ve got to make cookies,” with “I want to come over tonight and I’ve got to bake cookies.” The “but” version uses the cookies to negate the possibility of coming over. The “and” version leaves all p0ssibilites on the table and keeps the brain engaged. Its next contribution might be “Hey, how about I mix up the batter and bring it over?”
- Replace “but” with a period. Instead of “I like to eat donuts for breakfast, but they’re really bad for you,” say “I like to eat donuts for breakfast. They’re really bad for you,” and see what happens next.
If you’re ready to start your own “but”-less trend, let me know in the comments below.