The Power of ‘And’

The Power of ‘And’

written by: Dale Eilerman
by: Dale Eilerman
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The word 'and' is short but powerful. It connects as well as includes. It adds rather than negates. The word 'and' provides energy in collaboration and contributes momentum toward synergy. This word enables people with differing perspectives to find common ground. It can supply motivation when opposing parties may be losing hope of achieving their goal. When used effectively the word 'and' can move a disagreement toward resolution. This tiny word is one of the most important communication terms we can use when discussing differences with another person.

Many of us use the word 'but' when attempting to compare two differing points of view. For example, "I heard what you are saying, but I don't agree with you". This statement focuses on the disparity between the two people and is likely to engender division and defensiveness. The word 'but' is sometimes called the "eraser word", as it erases the phrase that came before it while focusing on the phrase that comes after it. This discounts the statement made by the first party in favor of that made by the second party. The result of responses that include the word 'but' are often unproductive.

The word 'and' is inclusive. It accepts that there may be some truth or validity in the first person's statement and then indicates that there are also other perspectives. This statement would go like this, "I understand what you are saying, and I don't agree with you". The change in one word, from use of the word 'but' to the word 'and', makes an important shift in the relationship by demonstrating an acceptance of the first person's statement while also indicating that there is a second point of view as well. It allows the person to be heard and understood, which is essential if efforts are being made to work together in resolving differences.

Use of the word 'and' allows for both support and confrontation in the course of counseling. Confrontation alone typically engenders resistance and rebuttal. An approach which starts with support will reduce defensiveness and open the door to exploration of alternatives. "I can tell that your beliefs are important to you from your perspective and I hope that you will be open to considering some additional ideas so that we can come up with the best possible solution to our disagreement."

This approach can be even more effective through use of pauses and reinforcement phrases such as "I hear you saying that doing things your way will work best, ...... I really do see how that makes sense for you based on the points you are making, ...... and I have another way of looking at this which is different from yours. Can I explain more about my point of view?" There is an art in the use of reflective listening where the word 'and' can demonstrate empathy while also communicating a differing choice.

Collaboration in managing differences is best achieved by focusing on both the issue/agenda and the relationship - the thoughts and the feelings. Communication that is accepting of the person and objective about the data will encourage creative and expansive thinking, leading to optimal outcomes. "I recognize that this plan is not what you initially desired and I want you to be satisfied. Now that we have had a chance to discuss the facts thoroughly, and examined the pros and cons of your ideas along with some new ones, I hope you can see the benefit in making some changes to your original plan. What are your feelings about this now?"

As you can see, the use of the word 'and' can enhance problem solving by demonstrating inclusion while also serving to keep discussion open and progressive. It can be a powerful term in managing differences, creating openness to new ideas and movement toward resolution of conflict. Be mindful of incorporating this word into your discussion of differences. Doing so will be helpful to you and others.

written by: Dale Eilerman

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