How To: Reframe "But" to Share Criticism More Kindly

Reframe "But" to Share Criticism More Kindly

There's perhaps no statement more classic (and more annoying) than the "but" sentence. We've all heard it before: "I love you, but..."

No matter what fantastic, complimentary remark came before the "but," all that our brains retain is the negative phrase that follows. Although we hate these sentences, there's no way we can avoid sharing "but" comments every so often.

However, by changing sentence structure, we can offer others feedback, news, and even critiques in a more positive manner. Reddit user gcanyon suggests twisting your words—but only in order, not in content.

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When we hear the all-too-familiar "but," we anticipate a hurtful, awful remark. In turn, it's all we remember and focus on from a conversation. By changing the format and getting the bad news out of the way, we throw our expectations out of whack and leave the listener dwelling on how many great things we had to say. That way, as gcanyon explains, we still get our point across—that there is something unpleasant that must be shared—but also help the other party leave in a good mood.

Because we have a tendency to let negative news soak into our brains and overwhelm us, hearing a positive after a bit of soul-crushing negativity can boost our spirits and allow us to marinate on what's good rather than bad. Get the bad news out of the way, and everyone can move on.

Adopting this new technique requires nothing more than a few seconds of mental preparation before speaking. Any "but" phrase can be lightened as long as you follow this pattern—and, after all, who likes leaving a friend (or even stranger) sad and hurt?

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For example, if your messy significant other is driving you crazy with their disorganization and trail of clutter, don't try to soften the blow of your cleanliness critique by saying, "I love you, but you need to stop leaving your clothes everywhere." Instead, try "You tend to leave your things everywhere, but I love you." If you can't stand when your roommate has her loud friends over on weeknights, gently share your feelings rather than dousing her in frustration with "Your friends tend to keep me up when I have to wake up early for work, but I really love going out with you guys on the weekends."

With the right phrasing, you can assuage both the listener's negative feelings and possibly sway them into the behavior you desire. All you need is a little bit of sweetness, and they'll leave the conversation remembering the positive things you said, not the depressing negatives.

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