How “AND” Is More Inclusive Than “BUT”

by dena on October 17, 2014


Whether I am writing to you in this blog or I am in conversation with someone, finding the words to describe how I feel and what I want to convey is one of my main goals. My intention is to use language in ways that heal and promote loving connections. To be truthful, I sometimes fall far short of this goal. When this happens, I apologize and focus on doing better.


Maybe you are aware already of the subtle and significant differences between the effects of using “and” versus “but” in sentences. Both are conjunctions, defined as the part of speech that acts to join together sentences, phrases, clauses, or words. As you will see, each brings a different flavor, a different effect, when used between two phrases in a sentence.


The reason I am sharing this with you is to offer a possibility of self-reflection on your own language expression. In my experience, my communication can become more centered in kindness when I am paying attention to the words coming out of my mouth and how they may be affecting others. This is true of the thoughts we each have about ourselves; our “self talk” can carry a lot of oomph in either a positive or a negative direction.


August, 2013 042 When I ran a Google search for but vs and, the  number of hits showed as about 1,910,000,000; for and vs but, the hits were about 1,175,000,000. While I don’t know how many sites are discussing grammar and which are looking at the subject I am exploring, I do know this latter view of the topic has been around a while. I recall it as part of a training I attended nearly thirty years ago, and it was not new then.


One of the two sources I visited online yesterday was Ken Fields, of He authored an article about the language of negotiation in business settings. The other was Charles Hill, of He wrote about mediation and how our communication with one another is improved when we examine how we use language.


Ken Fields wrote, “When using ‘and’ instead of ‘but’ there is a sense of inclusion and acceptance.”


Both authors pointed out that the use of but negates the words that come before it. Here is an example Charles Hill offered. “Yes, I would like to resolve this, but we’re not making any progress” leaves unspoken but implies: “so it’s not going to resolve.”  “Yes, I would like to resolve this, and we’re not making any progress” implies we may need another approach.


Mr. Hill’s observations about the use of and instead of but:  And is “perceived as more neutral”, it “acknowledges what precedes it”, and, it “expands and includes what precedes it.” He, also, notes that and “suggests there are two issues to be addressed.”


5 Ways to Explore “and” & “but” in the Next Week

1. Begin to observe these words spoken by others – family, co-workers, public speakers, people on television. My guess is you will hear but in this context more often than and.

2. Notice any emotional or subtle physical reactions you might have to hearing but in certain sentences.

3. If you read books or magazines or blogs fairly often, see where and how the buts and ands are surfacing.

4. Next, let the inner observer part of you listen in on your own thoughts and conversations, to discover when/where buts and ands occur.

5. When you become aware of a but in your own or in someone else’s speech, practice turning it around by restating the sentence with an and. Of course, do this silently, or you may receive some unwanted reactions!


Please remember to be gentle with yourself. This is a tool for living with more love. It is not a competition nor an invitation for beating yourself up.


I will leave you with a quote that stood out so beautifully today as I listened to a recording of the melodically and lyrically haunting song, Nature Boy, written by eden ahbez, in 1947.

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn

Is just to love and be loved in return.”


Blissings, Dena

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