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CONJUNCTION (DYS)FUNCTION: Learning to Love the Word "And"

Have you ever stopped to think about the incredible power of the word ‘and’? It’s a tiny little word, but just thinking and saying ‘and’ instead of one of its more limiting conjunction cousins ‘but’ and ‘or’ can have a huge impact on your own outlook and also have a positive impact on your relationships and business.

Think about it. You’re in a meeting and present a solution you think will work for your company. As soon as you finish your sentence, a colleague says, “That’s a good idea, but…” and proceeds to talk about how it’s off-base, what else needs to be added, whatever. You don’t know what he’s saying because you’ve shut him out, thinking to yourself, “did he even listen to what I said?” And of course, you’re now not listening to him, and so on. No wonder meetings seem to drag on unnecessarily, never getting anything done.

Now consider the impact if your colleague instead said “Yes, that’s a good start, and I think we should also consider…” Now you’re leaning forward in your chair, eager to hear how he builds on your idea. All because he used ‘and’ instead of ‘but’. The word 'but' has the potential to diminish or kill whatever idea, thought or experience immediately precedes it.

Now for ‘or’. You’re going into an important meeting where you and another party will be negotiating some time-sensitive and critical-to-your-bottom-line items. You already know what the other person’s stance will be, and it seems diametrically opposed to yours. You both go into the negotiation with the mindset that you’ll get your way, or he’ll get his way. Nice way to build trenches and dig in for the duration, right?

What if instead of ‘or’, you enter the negotiation with the ‘and’ mindset, where your goal is make both parties happy? Just thinking and saying ‘and’ instead of ‘or’ creates a more collaborative negotiating environment. It opens participants up to considering more possibilities, resulting in “expanding the pie”. Suddenly, you and the other person are collaborating instead of competing, and the outcome is almost certain to be better than digging trenches and playing tug of war.

There are certainly plenty of times when the situation calls for ‘but’ and ‘or’. I challenge you to consider using the more-inclusive ‘and’ whenever you can. I’d love to hear how this works out for you!

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