I'd like to BUT......



"I don't have time..."

"I don't know what to do"

"I couldn't do that"

"I'm too old"

"They hate me"

"Where would I even start"

"I can't afford it"

"I just haven't got the energy"

"I'm scared"

"I'm ok as I am"




All of these are natural reactions when we're asking ourselves to make changes. Immediately our brain seeks to keep us safe, with what we know, and finds reasons to help us stay put.


Reversing your But is a sales technique for handling objections (originally John McWhirter a UK based sales trainer I believe developed it) It also crops up when I teach professionals how to develop stronger communication skills so they can build great relationships with their teams, peers, managers and recruiters! As humans when a sentence contains a "but" we have been trained to disregard what comes before the but and only really hear what comes after. How many times have you heard:


"Thanks for completing that report but there are some errors in the formatting"

"I'd like to help out but I just don't have the time"

"You should speak to John but he won't listen"


Using the but as a pivot point, the sentence becomes:


There are some errors in the formatting but thanks for completing it

You haven't got the time right now, but you'd like to help out.

He won't listen but you should speak to John


Reversing the but enables you to think forward and acknowledge the positive intent.


For example:

"He won't listen but you should speak to John" broadens your thinking. I should speak to John, I want to speak to John so what are the ways I can think of to do that with knowing that John will find it difficult to listen?


"You haven't got the time right now, but you'd like to help out. When would be the best time for you?"


This happens in our heads too. When you are trying to sell yourself an idea, your brain is looking for all the reasons as to why it would not be a good idea


Recently I have been thinking I need to take more exercise. Predominantly working from home has meant my butt (excuse the pun) has got larger and my energy levels have got smaller. I remembered this technique and decided to try it on myself:


"I'd like to get more exercise but I haven't got the time or the energy"

By using the but as the pivot point, the sentence becomes:

"I haven't got the time or the energy but I'd like to get more exercise"

and then turns into a question:

So, What are the ways that I could get more exercise despite having little time or energy?


Some of my ideas are to:

  • see going up and downstairs to make a cup of tea as exercise

  • join a class so that it becomes an appointment in my diary

  • skip for 2 minutes before breakfast

  • walk to the village shop/postbox rather than drive

  • offer coaching in nature sessions so that we can walk and talk

  • view housework as exercise

  • Set a reminder to stand up and stretch every 90 minutes whilst I'm working

Laura, one of my recent clients was desperately unhappy with her job. She felt undermined by her team, not listened to by her boss, overwhelmed by the pressure of the work she needed to complete and her peers paying "lip service" to the importance of engaging, managing and developing their people. She had tried to tackle these difficulties through conversations, simplifying processes and doing some soul-searching around her own approach and her skills. She came to me at rock bottom for some help and had decided the time was right for her to move on.

"I am totally burnt out and my mental well-being is now suffering. I've tried everything. Nothing is working. I want to leave but I don't know if I have the confidence that I'm even able to carry on working in HR"

I asked her to complete the sentence below with as many reasons, doubts as she could come up with:

I want to leave but.....

She then chose the 5 sentences that she was most drawn to and reversed the but.

One of those sentences was:

"I don't know what else I would do, but I want to leave"

This became:

"I want to leave but I don't know what else I could do"

I then asked her "so, Laura what are all the different things you could do?"

By changing the sentence around, we focused her brain on thinking about moving forward rather than staying stuck. We are now working together on exploring those possibilities and already we are noticing how her energy levels are increasing and her confidence is building.


So, next time you hear that BUT. Turn it around to your advantage. You never know what ideas/solutions you will come up with.


I'd love to hear what you have learnt?









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