The And of all Buts

Ever had a conversation or interaction that left you feeling drained and sapped of mental, emotional, and physical energy? Until we get to process these exchanges with someone we trust, sometimes we just cannot pinpoint the actual reason or reasons for our subsequent lethargy. To what we may not consciously recognise, our bodies react and our minds feel.

The people around us each play roles in our lives. They are our spectators, our cheerleaders and our booers. Themes emerge were we to reflect on past interactions. Where these themes present is not so much through the content of what was said, but rather how the content had been conveyed. Imagine yourself bursting with excitement to share an experience and being met with a pinprick.

You: I repainted the walls over the long weekend.

Pin owner: It looks pretty splotchy by that corner.

Detractors are practiced masters skilled in slipping in implicit, subtle contradictions to what we share. Even though these words may not be overtly negative, they nonetheless deflate us, in addition to invalidating our past as well as current opinions and experiences.

You: I love this restaurant’s pasta.

Pin owner: Yeah, it is so easy to prepare, I can make this at home.

The concept of our ‘self’ is one of the most fundamental in psychology, and in so, indicative of how essential a role our self-concept plays in our lives. And what happens in an exchange between several people is a chain of actions and reactions that occur to protect our ‘self’ against that of another, leading to a round of unobtrusive belittling of subjective experiences and stinging pinpricks.

We have all been there before; it doesn’t feel good to be in a conversation with a ‘but’ friend who constantly negates our subjective reality, ergo us. It only takes a mere switch of word to turn things around on their head. This simply calls for compassion and kindness to transform a ‘but’ butt into an ‘and’ sentiment.

You: I repainted the walls over the long weekend.

Friend: That sounds like quite the project. How much time did you take?

You: I love this restaurant’s pasta.

Friend: We can come here again the next time we catch up.


It often feels like a great load off our shoulders when we hear responses aligned with how we view our ‘self’ and when we feel like we are being heard with respect. Instead of lying in wait to pounce, negate and deflate, how about trying to add onto someone’s experience and being in the next conversation you have?

* This piece was originally published in SEOUL magazine, Issue No. 179.