The But Monster™ is a conjunction; that is, a word joining two sentences together. In personal communication it can also act as a destructive rapport breaker. In therapeutic contexts the word ‘But’ is acknowledged as potentially damaging to a counsellor-client or therapist-patient discussion.
What about in the workplace?
Imagine a scenario – Pam, a customer services manager, meets with a customer services assistant, Tom, perhaps at an appraisal meeting, and proceeds to explain how some of his work has been good and that he has achieved some of his objectives. Maybe the manager goes on to add that other parts of Tom’s work have been quite good, too.
Now, imagine also that Pam (the manager) is using a spoken syntax that has a downward inflection to the end of each sentence – ‘sentence dropping’ as it is sometimes called.
The impact of the customer services manager’s message is already disempowering for Tom. He has, through extensive experience of the English language (same rules apply to other languages), broken the code of the message even before it is has been delivered completely – the employee knows instinctively that the next word to be uttered by the manager will be ‘But…’ followed by a message that is either critical or negative, or both; The But Monster™. Tom knows something bad is coming his way and his body prepares for pain – he tenses up and feels anxious.
Consider the following examples from a call centre environment:
“Yes, you were quite friendly with the customer… BUT you should have spent much more time on the phone with her.”
“Yes, when he called you did acknowledge him… BUT you ought to have used his name.”
“Your performance dealing with that enquiry was good… BUT you need to up-sell more while you are processing the customer details.”
Have you noticed the impact of The But Monster™? It negates all that goes before it and creates unnecessary tension in the mind and body of the message recipient.
Incidentally, ‘however’ is just a But Monster™ in disguise!