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WORK ADVICE

Make everything better by saying “and” instead of “but”

And wipe out the phrase “I have to” as well, says Viv Groskop

Added on

By Viv Groskop on

I am someone who not-very-secretly loves to moan. I love moaning so much that the two things I really moan a lot about are (a) how annoying it is that I’m moany and (b) how annoying it is when other people moan a lot and do nothing about the thing they’re moaning about. This really happens a lot, you know. Now I’ve said it you’ll notice it everywhere and it will drive you crazy and make you moan a lot and then I will be able to moan about you too.

The one positive of this habit is that I’m always looking for ways to sound and feel less moany. (So that I will not have no friends.) And I have just found a really good one. A Stanford University study by Professor Bernard Roth, author of The Achievement Habit, insists that we would all get better results in life – and be more positive, less moany people – if we changed two simple habits of speech. Both are easy to adopt.

First, instead of saying “but”, say “and.” So don’t say: “I want to go to the movies but I have to work to do.” (Sorry about the movies but he is an American.) Say: “I want to go to the movies and I have work to do.” (Sorry about the movies and he is an American. See? So much more positive.) Saying “and” has virtually the same meaning but it’s less moany. Saying “but”, says the good professor, “creates a conflict that does not really exist”. Because after all, you could go to the movies if you wanted to. Instead you know that you need to do some work. He himself advises going to see a shorter movie. Which seems to me like a particularly American solution. But I live a long way from the cinema so I would say that. (Or should I say, and I live quite a long way from the cinema.)

Saying ‘and’ has virtually the same meaning as ‘but’ except it’s less moany

Second, avoid saying “I have to.” Instead say “I want to.” Professor Roth takes the example of one of his students saying, “I have to take maths classes to graduate even though I hate them.” The fact is, he does actually want to take the maths classes because he wants to graduate. And even though he may not enjoy the maths classes, he knows they are necessary and important and will give him a sense of achievement. (I have changed “math” to “maths” here. I didn’t have to. I wanted to. Ah, breathe in that feel-good factor.)

Now, I know we are all getting a bit fed up of being told what we – especially as women –should and shouldn’t say. You know what I am talking about. The whole business about women being told to stop apologising for everything (“I’m sorry to interrupt but...”) and the movement to eliminate all those self-effacing so-called “hedges” from our daily speech (“Could you just..” and “Would you mind if...”). There is even a school of thought that suggests these "helpful" edicts are in themselves patronising and unfeminist and we should be able to talk however the hell we want.

But I am a pragmatic person and I think that anything that is useful and makes sense is usually a good idea. Plus, I have got bored of moaning. If anything can make us feel better quickly and easily (and legally), then we have a duty to do it. If this means switching “but” for “and” and “have to” for “want to” to make life go by a little more easily and painlessly, then I am all for it. Of course, the effort of remembering to do it is one more thing to moan about. So I get to improve myself and feel better. And continue moaning. Win win.

@VivGroskop

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