“You know who is our greatest enemy?” These were my first words when I presented the draft agenda for our annual meeting of Barcelona’s Rotary Clubs. After an uncomfortable moment of silence I repeated the question. “You know who is our greatest enemy?”
19 puzzled faces looked at me – the level of attention 100%. A click and the big black screen behind me showed one phrase in huge white Calibri fonts: Sr. Pero – Spanish for Mr. But. I continued. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the greatest enemy of our upcoming event – Mr. But!”
Mr. But is everywhere
In our everyday communication Mr. But is everywhere. Mr. But is omnipresent. Mr. But is palpable.
“It was a great event. The music was fantastic. But…”
“I liked your presentation. It was well structured. But…”
“Your performance this year has improved a lot. Your results exceed my expectations. But…”
Mr. But drags down our argument, chops our idea’s head off, squeezes our performance. Mr. But is a synonym for destructive criticism. Nobody really likes to be with Mr. But, but everyone is Mr. But. Me too…
I remember how my friend Dennis ridiculed my behavior during our university days. Far too often I responded to his arguments saying, “Yes, but.” In the end, an annoyed Dennis would just reply, “Here we go again.”
What can we do?
We cannot change everyone, BUT we can change ourselves. Next time you are about to turn into Mr. But, bite your tongue and replace your destructive feedback by a constructive comment.
“It was a great event. The music was fantastic. Many people loved the food, even if I have to say that, personally, I prefer meat over fish. Maybe next year you offer both options.”
“I liked your presentation. It was well structured. What could have been even more effective, from my point of view, would have been to change the order of your arguments.”
“Your performance this year has improved a lot. Your results exceed my expectations. I reckon next year you focus on improving your soft skills in order to complement your great technical skills.”
Say goodbye to Mr. But
At our Rotarian event in Barcelona we fought him hard. Of course, we couldn’t fully get rid of him. We did our best to reduce the number of Mr. Buts. Next year a few less, the year after a few less – it’s a Sisyphean task. We all love to criticize and Mr. But makes us a super star of criticism.
Nevertheless, Mr. But is the Ebenezer Scrooge of rhetoric. Nobody likes him. Everybody hates him. Be smart and say goodbye to Mr. But!