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Becoming a Better But-er

"But" - it's something we hate to hear after receiving good news.

"That presentation was great, but there are things you need to work on."

"I want to give you a raise, but it's not in the budget right now." 

"I love you, but there are some things you could be more considerate with."

We lead with the pleasant and wrap with the not so pleasant. This is unfortunate because we're conditioned to disregard what comes before "but", and place a higher value on what comes after - "The But Eraser/Enhancer Effect". Thus, we're constantly dampening our positive statements while enhancing the negative. 

Being mindful of this phenomenal, we can leave a more emotionally encouraging footprint by merely flipping the positioning. 

"There are things that you need to work on, but the presentation was great."

"It's not in the budget right now, but I want to give you a raise". 

"There are some things you could be more considerate with, but I love you". 

The literal meaning of the statements remain the same, only the emotional impact has changed. This is important. Constructive feedback is healthy and we don't want to discourage it. We simply want to express ourselves more positively, disagreeing agreeably by becoming better but-ers. 


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In school, we listen to our teachers. At home, our parents. Throughout our childhood, following instructions is praised and rewarded. When we're young, there's value in this. We don't understand how the world works quite yet, so guidance can be lifesaving.  The bias to just accept obviously has drawbacks. Insert old jumping off a bridge adage .  This conditioning is especially strong for kids from lower income households. Their parents are more likely in working class jobs involving strict order-taking. Parents of middle-class households tend to be knowledge workers where influence is essential.  Studies have shown kids from middle-income households are more willing to negotiable with their teachers. They learn from their parents that things are not set in stone. This leads to better grades and learning outcomes when compared to their lower income counterparts who don't negotiable.  In business, if we simply accept things as they are, we would never innovate. In work, w