I was once pulled over by a police officer as I was driving along a busy road. When he approached my truck window, he was very stern and gruff. He explained that he pulled me over for speeding. As he spoke, I had a million thoughts running through my mind, from "I want to crawl into a hole and die because people are driving by looking at me like a common criminal," (or so I perceived) to "Ahhh! Why is this officer so scary?" to "How am going to explain this to my safe-driving-stickler husband?"
When the officer handed me the nausea-inducing slip of paper that was the speeding ticket, the only thing that I could think of to say that made me feel somewhat decent was "Thank you." Yes, I gathered myself up enough to quickly realize that any excuse for speeding would be pathetic and that being flippant, defensive, or mad would just make me look like a fool. So I said "Thank you." It was then that the officer looked me with surprise in his eyes and dropped his hard core demeanor. He softened his tone, bid me a gentle goodbye, and went along his way.
One PR Fix, or communication upgrade, that I learned at the beginning of my career, is to replace using the word "but" with "and" to soften unfavorable language. While this has come in handy in business, it's also been useful in my personal communication as well.
Before I learned this, I never really considered how the terms "but," "however," or "yet" can actually be negative. When I stopped to think about it, I realized that they are mainly used in contrary to something and have a subtle way to bring down a conversation. Why? Because many times, "but" is used as an excuse or a crutch. Over and over people use "but" to take the accountability off of their shoulders. For example, "I did my homework, BUT I don't have it with me because my dog ate it." Or "I would have been on time, BUT I got stuck in traffic." Even though this is not the case for all uses of "but," the frequency of using a "but statement" as a justification for a mistake has dirtied the interpretation of the word.
There is always a way to graciously address any situation, no matter how uncomfortable. Plain and simple: ignoring the truth or being phony feeds into the discomfort of the most awkward situations and makes them worse.
It's that time of the year when people start delivering their holiday cards, gifts and well-wishes for the new year. And every year, it seems to be a struggle when it comes to figuring out what you are going to give or send. When you feel like you have exhausted every option out there, do you ask yourself, "what can I do differently this year?"