The Difference Between “But” & “And”

Blog 4But – conjunction – used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned.

And – conjunction – used to connect words of the same part of speech, clauses, or sentences that are to be taken jointly.

It’s as simple as that – one stops a thought in its tracks and introduces something else. The other connects an additional idea to be considered jointly.

It’s eye-opening to think about how often we use the phrase “Yes, but…” and the dramatic effect that happens when you replace “but” for “and.” For example, if a colleague suggests an idea, you might say, “Yes, and we could explore that idea and see if we could get it in the budget next year,” rather than “Yes, but there’s just no money to do that.” Even if you don’t ultimately agree on what’s being proposed, you’re at least allowing for the possibility of something and thereby showing respect and support for your associate.

Doing this small, yet significant shift in language promotes an atmosphere of acceptance and possibilities, not one of rejection and defeat. As a result, the workplace culture thrives. It becomes one of inspiration, not deflation. People aren’t thinking, “Why bother suggesting anything, because nobody wants to hear it.” They are thinking, “This is a place where ideas are welcome.”

“Yes, and…” Doesn’t Always Mean Yes.

Being open to ideas doesn’t mean you need to be committed to them. Allowing a continuation of thought keeps conversations going, inspires creativity. Being more inclusive in our conversation helps overcome resistance and fears that lead to a meeting of minds, which can be extremely beneficial during negotiations.

I like to introduce the game, “yes, and…” to illustrate this point. It goes something like this: The first participant announces, “Yes, I’m a walrus.” The next person might say, “Yes, I am a walrus, and I have got some really big whiskers.” The next person says, “Yes, I do have really big whiskers, and I’ve got a big tusk.” Or another scenario: “Yes, I love to play golf on Saturdays.” The next person says, “Oh, I love to play golf on Saturdays. And then I love to come home and sit on the patio.” Yes, I love sitting on the patio and petting my chocolate lab.” “And, I love picking the fleas out of her fur and squishing them.”

And so while playing this game, each participant starts off finding a level of agreement with what the preceding person said, then steers the story down a completely different path through improvisation. The concept of “yes, and…” is about being agreeable. It’s not about agreeing, but it’s about continuing the conversation.

Learn more about how leveraging improv can improve your career by visiting where you download a free chapter of my book, Improv is No Joke.