The "But" blocker

You don’t even know when you’re doing it. 

You think you’re open to dealing with an issue, solving a problem or Finding Your Nxt.  And yet, you can come up with all kinds of reasons why you can’t move forward.

It’s not like you don’t act like you’re open to the possibilities.  

You say things like “I know my job is grinding me into the ground, but it pays my bills and I figure if I can just avoid my boss as much as possible, I can make it work.”

Or… “I know that Joe isn’t the right guy for me, but he can be so sweet sometimes and I really don’t want to hurt his feelings by breaking up with him!”

You say you know that there’s a problem, you know that what you’re doing isn’t really working for you, but…you have a dozen reasons why you shouldn’t deal with it directly, or make a change.

I call it the “But” Blocker.

You start off acknowledging what’s wrong, and then promptly counter the problem with “but…and [fill in any number of excuses why you can’t change it].

It’s more common than you think.

Listen to yourself the next time you have a problem.  Listen to others who talk with you about an issue they have.  How many times do you, or they, begin by saying what’s wrong, and then continue with…BUT…and give any number of reasons why the problem won’t change.

I was in a coaching session recently with a client who spent 10 minutes telling me about a situation with his co-worker Tim that was really troubling him.  He laid out several specific problems he saw with Tim’s handling of a situation.  He clearly outlined all the ways in which Tim was causing real difficulties within their team.  And he knew he had to do something about it.  

And yet…every single time I asked him how he could move forward and address the situation, he would use the But blocker to shut himself down.

“I know I need to talk with Tim” he said, “but every time I bring up an issue, he changes the subject and I get nowhere with him.”

I asked whether Tim might be doing that as a strategy to avoid having a hard conversation?  And then asked my client how he could use a counter strategy to keep the conversation on the issue at hand?

He said “I could redirect the conversation, but I’m afraid that Tim won’t hear what I have to say and he’ll just continue doing what he’s doing.”

This went on with several more suggestions, each resulting in an agreeable “Yes!  I can do that” followed by “But…[at least one reason why it won’t change anything].

I let this go on for a while with my client and then stopped our conversation, pointing out his consistent use of the But blocker, pointing out that he had used the word “but” a total of 8 times – one time for each of 8 suggestions of how he could potentially address the situation.

He was stunned.  

“I had no idea I was doing that,” he said.  “I really shot down every suggestion of how to handle this situation with Tim by saying but each time?”  

“Yep” I said.  “Why don’t we start this conversation over…and this time, every time you catch yourself using the word “but,” you must stop, and change your focus from finding all the excuses why you can’t work with Tim to address the issues you’ve identified, to focusing on how you can work with Tim to make some changes.

It was a much more fruitful conversation from there.  

We don’t even know we’re doing it.  We don’t hear ourselves saying but

And that’s the insidious thing about the But Blocker.  It blocks us without us realizing we are self-sabotaging our own ability to deal with problems or situations in front of us.  

Don’t let the But Blocker stop YOU from dealing with an issue, solving a problem or Finding Your Nxt.

the immersion