FILWP Presenting Tip #005: “But” may sound ok to you, but…


FILWP Presenting Tip #005 might again be one of those where you think I’m on a ‘politcal correctness’ or ‘word police’ soapbox.  Far from it, as you’ll see what a big impact such a short word can (and does) have and how, with a small tweak, your communication will land much more effectively with others.

It is very common for speakers to say things like:

  • I know that some of you are tired, but we have a lot to get on with.
  • Some of you traveled a long distance to be here, but you’re here now.
  • I know that some of you were told to attend the event, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.


Even though I’m sure that you are perfectly aware of what the word ‘but’ means, it is useful to revisit the actual meaning of the word, as explained in an on-line dictionary:  

[See how I just did that?  I could have said ‘I’m sure that you are perfectly aware of what the word ‘but’ means, BUT here’s what it says in the dictionary”.  Read on to find out why that is NOT the most effective way to include and engage your audience.]

“BUT:  used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned.” [my underline]


When you use the word ‘but’ you negate everything you just said; as the definition above states.  You introduce a contrast, an ‘either/or’ rather than a ‘both/and’.

Without even trying, you’ve just made it irrelevant that some people in your audience 

  • are tired
  • have traveled a long way
  • were forced to attend the event

Now even if it is irrelevant to you (which it isn’t; as a presenter, the emotional state of your audience is of the UTMOST importance to you), rest assured that it is not irrelevant to those who are affected by it.  How do you like it when others seem to be actively indifferent to you not enjoying a particular experience, showing no compassion, kindness or understanding?  Exactly.

By suggesting (however subtly or unconsciously) that it is not important what they are feeling or experiencing, you are effectively telling your audience that they are not important full stop – and that will not endear them to you in any way, shape or form.

This is, of course, not just true for when you present.

Notice how often you might negate others’ views, opinions or states by the use of the simple word ‘but’.


See what happens when you replace the word ‘but’ with ‘and’, as in the examples we started out with:

  • I know that some of you are tired, and we do have a lot to get on with; are you OK for us to move to the next topic / speaker / exercise?
  • Some of you had a long way to travel, and you’re here now – well done and thank you for coming.
  • I know that some of you were told to attend the event, and here you are; thank you for coming.


Don’t you think that sound just a bit more respectful?  Inclusive?  Kind?  Compassionate?  Like you actually care about them?

It sure does, and that’s the reason to do it.

Often, even the simple (and heartfelt) acknowledgement of our challenges or discomfort allows us to start feeling appreciated and heard.  Creating that sense in and for your audience will go a long way to help them feel that you’re all in this together and make it easier to work with rather than push against you.


Just like an upset child, the more you try to ignore their reality or shut them down, the more they’ll push against you, consciously or unconsciously.

The (apparently paradoxical) way out through is to make their discomfort or tiredness OK, and to connect it with being here now, and the way to do that is by chucking ‘but’ from your vocabulary and replacing it with ‘and’.



Just do it for a week or 2, and see what happens!

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