created by the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council
Activities for Transforming Teams
and Igniting Change
ATTIC is a collection of tools, games, and activities to inspire innovation, teamwork and engagement in health care settings.

And Not But

The And Not But activity helps us to reflect on the simple words we use to communicate, and how these can impact a conversation. “But” is an interesting word in communication. It is a minimizing word that detracts from, and qualifies, the statement before it. By replacing the word “but” with “and,” communication can have a more positive and powerful feel. Our choice of words and responses can frame a conversation and help us to communicate more effectively.


Download Activity Worksheet

  • 10-15 minutes
  • Minimum of 2
  • None

  • Source: Adapted from multiple sources

What to do

  1. In partners, plan a vacation with one partner using only “yes, but” after each statement.
  2. One partner will start the conversation with a statement and then the second partner will follow with a statement starting with “yes, but.” For example:
    Partner 1: We are going on a trip to Hawaii and we are going to go to Maui.
    Partner 2: Yes, but I can;t go next week as I have a work meeting.
    Partner 1: That’s okay – we can switch the time.
    Partner 2: Yes, but I don’t like Hawaii.
  3. After a few minutes of planning your trip using “yes, but,” switch and repeat the exercise above using nothing but “yes, and.”
  4. One partner will start the conversation with a statement and then the second partner will follow with a statement starting only with “yes, and.” For example:
    Partner 1: We are going on a trip to Hawaii and we are going to go to Maui.
    Partner 2: Yes, and we are going to go to the beach every day.
    Partner 1: Yes, and we are going to go snorkeling.
  5. After a few minutes of planning your trip using “yes, and”, debrief on the language used and how it felt using “and” versus “but.”

Debrief

In both planning sessions you were using the word “yes.”

  • How did it feel when you were planning your trip using “yes, but?” Now, how did it feel when you were planning your trip using “yes, and?”
  • Did you feel the ow of the conversation change when you used “and” instead of “but?” If yes, how did it change?
  • How can we change our language and framing around issues to communicate more effectively in health care?
  • Where can you embed this change in your day-to-day work or activities? What’s one thing you could try in the coming week?

By replacing the word “but” with “and,” communication can have a more positive and powerful feel. “But” often acts as a minimizing word that detracts from, and qualifies, the statement before it.

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