Updates from QA Training

Let’s ban the but!

I’m sure most of us have heard of or seen the character from Little Britain called Vicky Pollard – famous for her ‘yeah but no but yeah but not but’ dialogue.

Jennie Marshall | 19 April 2013

I’m sure most of us have heard of or seen the character from Little Britain called Vicky Pollard – famous for her ‘yeah but no but yeah but not but’ dialogue.


It's just a tiny little word that creeps into our language and out of our mouths without much thinking. BUT are we missing something critical here about the "but?"

This piece of linguistic wisdom was first shared with me by our Head of Leadership here at QA, Phil Holder. And I can't believe I never came across this years before I joined QA.

The piece of wisdom is this…..

Instead of saying "Yes….but" swap it for "Yes….and".

In a nutshell - ban the but!

I've just finished delivering another course at QA and had added this piece of wisdom in to the course.

At the end of the course one person came up to me and said, "This is sure different than most courses I used to attend at my former job - they'd try to say something good, but always add a "but" to it that would almost always send us out of the training with our heads down instead of up. Funnily enough now I think about it, our manager did it too!"

Why do some managers always have to add the "but", I wonder?

I certainly think it's OK to talk about areas of improvement - it just needs to be put in a different context, instead of serving as an immediate "negater" of a positive statement.

Context really is critical - I put it hand in hand with common sense as a key to good communication for leaders. The simple sequence of talking points can make a huge difference. I probably use "but" more than I should as well (at least I don't do it on my courses, thankfully) - it's so easy sometimes to say something like "I'm really happy with our progress, BUT we still have a long way to go". What a roller coaster.

Maybe one can simply put it in reverse, so at least the last thing a person hears is the positive statement, like this -"Although I realise we have many things we have yet to accomplish, I am very pleased with the progress we've made". "I hear your point of view and I think we should take this approach." Better? I think so. These subtle changes can make a big difference.

So join my campaign - let's ban the "but" forever!

Jennie Marshall
QA Learning Expert: Leadership, Management and Business Skills
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QA Training | Jennie-marshal

Jennie Marshall

Learning Programme Director (Enterprise and Outsource Services)

Jennie Marshall is an award winning learning professional (Winner of the 2016 Learning Performance Institute, Learning Professional of the Year Bronze Award), who joined QA in 2010 as a Learning Consultant in the Leadership, Management and Business Skills team. She has gone on to progress through various positions to her current role of Learning Programme Director where she now designs, develops and manages the delivery of end to end learning programmes. She is an experienced and dedicated learning professional, with expertise including management, leadership and talent, and training and facilitation developed within a variety of environments. Jennie has a proven track record of delivering blended, multi modal learning programmes using Learning Management System platforms and in a more traditional face to face setting, is at home with small and large audiences. She is a proven developer of people and is accredited in the use of a variety of tools including Strength Deployment Inventory®, Emergenetics®, Hogan®, Prism® and Worldsview™ as well as being an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner and Kirkpatrick Certified Professional (Bronze).
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