Everything before the “but” is a lie

Have you ever noticed that when people say something and the word “but” is in the middle of the sentence, everything before it can be discarded because they didn’t really mean it?

When someone says “that is a really nice sweater but…” I don’t care what comes after the but, they don’t like your sweater.

When a person says “I really like your website but” it means they don’t really like your site.

The question that has to be asked is, do people think we are so foolish as to not realize this?

While you might think using this technique will “soften the blow” the reality is, people know what you are doing. If what you are saying before the “but” isn’t true, then don’t say it. Be honest, don’t waste people’s time and concentrate on everything after the ‘but”.

While this might seem like a very small thing, the reality is, it’s the type of thing that can make us all much better communicators.

Have a great day!

Lawrence

9 Responses to “Everything before the “but” is a lie”

  1. I’m not sure it is accurate to say everything before the “but” is a lie at least not as a constant rule of thumb.

    For instance if I were to say “I want to go to Ireland but I can’t afford it” doesn’t mean I don’t want to go to Ireland – it just means I have to hold off for a while.

    Or “I want to help on Saturday but I’m already committed to doing X” – again, not necessarily a lie (though it could be)

    My point is it is hard to make such a generic rule that is actually applicable to all situations. I’d suggest you consider the entirety of the comment, the context, and the speaker before rushing to judgement; that might make us all better communicators.

  2. First of all, almost everything on a blog like this is a bit of a generalization. However, in most cases, I stand by what I wrote.

    An example: “I want to go to Ireland but I can’t afford it”. Reality: if a person wants it badly enough, they will find a way to do it. This might mean putting it off a bit. This might mean getting a second job. This might mean getting a different job with an airline to fly for free. The point being, if someone want something badly enough, it can be done (and done without putting it on yet another credit card)

    An example: “I want to help on Sunday but I’m already committed to doing X”. Could this person find another person to help out (this would certainly be a way to help). Can he explore other ways to help out (hiring someone, automating it, going in after hours etc)

    People like to make excuses and think that simply giving an excuse is something that will be accepted by all.

    I’m not saying a person has to do whatever is asked of them. However, the reality is, most people take the easy way out and don’t see anything wrong with it

    Lawrence

  3. bill you are wrong.

    “For instance if I were to say “I want to go to Ireland but I can’t afford it” doesn’t mean I don’t want to go to Ireland – it just means I have to hold off for a while.”

    It ultimately does mean that you don’t want to go. You don’t want to go because you don’t have enough money.

    If you really want something you”ll make time for it and you’ll spend your money on it.

    That’s like saying, “I really do like going to church on Sundays but I don’t have the free time”. NO! You don’t like going to church on Sundays you like to sleep. If you actually liked going to church you would make the time.

  4. I’m with Bill on this one. Sometimes a task is not feasible, hence the conjunction “but.”

    He gave a perfectly good example as well.

  5. How about

    With Anna i had the time of my life
    But now we are no longer together

    I still had the time of my life.

    So how about this one, its not a lie

  6. Bill is right, “it is hard to make such a generic rule that is actually applicable to all situations”. I would go a step further and say its impossible. Great concept however and its something to be conscious of if you choose, your use of the word ‘but’ and how you apply it. Point is no one can say they are right here nor that the other is wrong in these examples. Not everyone speaks the same language. Not even when we are all speaking English. Everything is subject to interpretation and the intent of the user of any word is also a factor. That’s why its impossible to create such a rule that will hold true in all scenarios.

  7. “First of all, almost everything on a blog like this is a bit of a generalization. However, in most cases, I stand by what I wrote.”

    I submit that “However,” has the same meaning as “but” :)

  8. Well, like how you showed Bill’s example to be false, even one of yours isn’t true.

    For example: “I really like your website, but you should consider using a different font.”

    In this example, one would be saying that they *do* like the website in some way: perhaps the content or the writing style or something substantive.

    However, they have criticism about something that should be singled out. That criticism isn’t central to liking the website, which would have the same substance in (almost) any font, and could be an area of improvement if a more appropriate font was used instead.

    To just give that criticism would make the conversation argumentative from the get go.

    Similarly, I could say about this article “I like and agree with your conclusion, i.e. that one should exercise caution in their word choice and say what they mean, but I disagree with the argument you made to reach your conclusion.”

  9. Well, one can always say: “you should change the font, but I like your website” so the rule of “rubbish before the but” should be applied carefully.

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