So Many Buts

In spite of my wife’s quiet and demure outward appearance, she can be pretty candid at times. Especially when it involves me.

In a conversation we were having the other day, she told me I have too many buts. You can imagine my shock at her comment! But after thinking about it, I realized that she’s probably right, as painful as it is for me to admit. I do have too many buts.

But you know what? I don’t think I’m the only one. I think a lot of other people have too many buts as well. In fact, as a society, I think most people have too many buts and we seem to be adding more of them all the time! This has nothing to do with a person’s physiology but, rather, with opinions.

It seems that no matter what someone says or does, it’s never enough, and we can’t resist the urge to jump in and add our but to their comment, regardless of how subtle it might be. Some people seem to be so conditioned to inserting their buts that others hardly notice when they throw them in. And sometimes, I think the person doing so doesn’t even realize they’re doing it.

This is especially problematic when it comes to the relationship between business owners and their employees. It seems that some owners simply can’t resist the urge to add an additional two cents to every comment or suggestion an employee makes. It’s what Marshall Goldsmith refers to as adding too much value. An employee will work up the courage to make a suggestion and rather than acknowledging their idea or maybe even offering a compliment, the owner adds their own two cents by saying something on the order of, “That’s a great idea, but what if we also did this?”

“Well, of course,” the employee thinks. “How could I have thought that my ideas would ever match those of the owner?” Before long, people stop offering their ideas and suggestions.

Our buts can have a similar effect when we use them to decline things. “We’d all love to have new equipment (or software upgrades, more marketing support, heat in the office, etc.), but we just aren’t making enough money to afford those things.”

While our news media may not be the cause of this condition, I feel they certainly contribute to it. It seems like we are no longer good enough or can no longer be right enough to satisfy some people. We’ll hear about a scientist or world figure who has managed to accomplish some incredible feat and then in the next breath the reporter will say with a serious tone, “but you won’t believe what they eat for breakfast!”

I think we’d all be much happier and have more friends if we stopped throwing our buts into every conversation, reserved our judgment, and recognized the value of another person’s contribution.

It’s gotten to the point where I believe the happiest people in the world are those with the fewest buts. Maybe just one would be sufficient … and that’s the one we were issued at birth. But that’s just this man’s opinion.

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