Buts And Butts

Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?

If you were a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons in the seventies and eighties (and apparently also from 1993 – 1999), you would know: 1) the melody of this song and 2) that the phrase to sing back is, “hooking up words and phrases and clauses.”

Schoolhouse Rock taught us all about adverbs (Lolly, anyone?), American history (The Shot Heard ‘Round the World) and even how a little bill becomes a law. These animated, musical snippets of education improved the test scores of a generation (anyone else need to memorize the preamble to the Constitution?), and many of us can still sing the songs decades later.

With honorable mention going to that little bill, it seems that Conjunction Junction is our favorite pop culture reference to this wonderful series.

And I find that interesting. I find that interesting because conjunctions – and, but, or – are frequently used in disempowering ways.

Think of how many times you use the word “but” in a day. While “but” may be a grammatically correct word choice, is it true? We often use “but” for clausal elements that are not mutually exclusive, thereby limiting our perceptions of what is possible.

Take these following sentences as an example:

I’m hungry, but I don’t want to cook dinner.
I have to get this work done, but I’m tired.
Yes, but….

Using the word “but” in these examples stifles energy and limits possibility.

If you are hungry, but you don’t want to cook dinner – then what? Are you stuck? Do you just stay hungry?  If you have to get the work done, but you are tired – then what? Does the work not get done? And my favorite…yes, but. That implies, “I hear you, and you’re wrong.” What does that do for the relationship?

All of these examples change significantly when we replace “but” with “and.”

I’m hungry, and I don’t want to cook dinner.
I have to get this work done, and I’m tired.
Yes, and…

The word “and” opens the doors for possibility. It allows our hearts and minds to expand and find a solution that accommodates both clausal elements.

I’m hungry, and I don’t want to cook dinner. Cool! I can go out to eat. I can order something to be delivered. I can get take-out. I can ask my husband to cook. I can eat cereal for dinner. All of these possibilities open up when we simply use the word “and.”

This distinction is also significant with respect to our weight-loss efforts. I teach an approach that is 180° different than the current, cultural “diet and exercise” approach. And do you know who struggles the most with these new ideas? People who use the word “but” a lot. Every potential solution I offer to their quandary, is met with the word “but” and why it won’t work. However, my clients who meet my offers with the word “and,” followed by a question of how that suggestion might be implemented, seem to enjoy great success.

So the next time you find yourself using the word “but,” stop. Ask yourself if you can use the word “and” instead. Watch how the word “and” creates freedom and inspired new solutions. You might be surprised. Ceasing to use the word “but” unnecessarily could actually shrink your butt!