The other month I hit a pretty big business goal and found myself joyfully walking to yoga in the late afternoon. I was humming a little, feeling light and happy and enjoying the unusually warm winter sunset. I was optimistic about life and what’s next for me.
Until… the “but” came in. Oh yes, that sneaky word that ruins all good things if we let it.
I thought to myself, Yes, I had a good month, BUT people younger than I am are still smashing me, and Yeah that was a peak launch, BUT it’ll inevitably be followed by some kinda low … , and even, BUT maybe I was lucky this time?
If there’s one word that can lead to instant misery after something positive has just happened, it’s the word “but.” However, not every good thing has to be countered by a “but,” even though our minds often wander there.
We can change the conversation. As easily as we can throw that word in, we can snap it back. Here’s how you can choose something else instead of a counterproductive “but” (either in your head or out loud) when faced with a win, a compliment or a pleasant result:
“Esther, you do it all — you manage a baby and a busy job in the city and still make it to girls’ night out!”
Possible response: “Yeah, but I don’t do every mother’s meeting on the planet and heck — I feel like I’m failing a bit at everything…”
Better response: “Thank you! I do like my work and love my family and my friends. Plus, I do have a lovely, trusty sitter. Lucky me!”
“Susie, your skin looks so good!”
Possible response: “Isn’t ‘nice skin’ something people say when they don’t know what else to compliment? Must be because I gained weight over the last few months.”
Better response: “Thank you! I guess I’ve never really had to worry about my skin. Kinda awesome when I think about it!”
“Wendy, this pasta tastes freakin’ amazing.”
Possible response: “Thanks, but the sauce is store-bought. Ugh. I always say I need to start cooking properly, another thing to feel guilty about *sigh*”
Better response: “Thank you. Glad you like it.”
“Heath, great report! Nice work.”
Possible response: “Thanks, but I should’ve added an extra column for X and/or Y…”
Better response: “Thank you. I can add X or Y too, if you think it’ll help!”
Self: That really was the perfect gift for Lucy! She loved it! I’m good at choosing gifts.
Possible response: Hmmm… but it was two days late. I’m such a screw-up with timing.
Better response: That really was the perfect gift for Lucy! She loved it! I’m good at choosing gifts. Next year I’ll remember her birthday is Feb. 11, not 13, too (or not — my gifts are that awesome).
What are you “but”-ting right now that could just … be? What flow of good energy and harmony and peace are you blocking with a prickly shut down of a compliment, a harsh snap at yourself, a rush to judgment over simply… allowing space and appreciation for it instead? And letting something good truly land?
And the word that shuts down a “but” faster than doughnuts disappearing at a 3:30 p.m. meeting?
Yep. That’s it. Thank you. Thanking yourself. Someone else. The universe.
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City.
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