DISCLOSURE: Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Everyone has some internal level of adventure. Whether it be skydiving, trying frozen yogurt, bull riding, or changing your shampoo, adventuresome-ness is there. For me, my latest adventure was a haircut. I like my natural brown locks so I didn’t bother to touch those. But then I couldn’t help myself, and I let it slip...the B word....That’s right folks, bangs. Snip snip, I now have bangs. Yes, I am a modern day Lewis and Clark.
Off I went, proud of myself and my new adventure hair cut. Chin up and out, I loved myself. Compliments were abound; pride was swollen. Then I saw my Aunt Rita. I grinned a little grin, the way you do when you know you’re about to receive another pride-enhancing remark....
“I really like your hair like this, but it would have been better if it wasn’t so short in the front,” said my Aunt Rita with lipstick on her teeth. Ok, I made the lipstick part up, but I want you to think less of her. Sorry, I’m bitter.
There it was. The “but.” It’s a three letter word that slams like a sucker punch. Perhaps you have not received a “but” in haircut context, so here are a few other keen examples:
“You are a wonderful employee, BUT you never show up on time or do your work.”
“You’re really good at basketball, BUT you can’t really dribble, or run, or shoot.”
“I do not judge people, BUT she should not wear that top with those shoes.”
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, BUT I peed in your laundry hamper.”
It’s the umbrella “but” that covers your butt, supposedly freeing you from any guilt of saying what you really want to say. It’s a “but” that covers a multitude of sins. It’s a “but” that allows you to make-fun of someone, keep your character intact, deliver a low-blow, and much, much more.
To effectively use this “but” it must be proceeded with some sort of buffer. The buffer has to be a statement that either offers a compliment, an apology, or a frank remark that ensures “hey, I’m not a bad person.” This will help relax the receiver before they get hit with a verbal smack in the face.
Why do we "but" into people's lives? Why do we strictly follow this format?
For one, we want to make ourselves look good. It's survival of the fittest out there and looking bad means cesspool in the gene department. So we lead with the compliment or apology, not only to make the receiver feel relaxed, but to make sure we're OK with ourselves, too. No one intentionally wants to look like a horrible person, and we like to promote just how nice we really are.
However the biggest motivation for the "but" format is this: we are scared to say what we think. We are opinionated people. We have thoughts, ideas, motivations - yet we are terrified of what saying these things really means, and what it means about ourselves.
Everyone has heard that honesty is the best policy. But come on, sometimes your over emotional friend doesn't need to hear that they're fat, or know it was you who peed in the hamper. Then there are times where opinions shouldn't be sugar coated, dipped in chocolate, and cover with sprinkles. If someone isn't pulling their weight in the office, or should ditch the dream of playing point guard, they deserve to know.
On one hand you respect the people in your life by being sensitive to their needs. On the other hand, you respect them by telling the truth when it is imperative to be told. This is what we try to achieve with our "but"s. We want to make sure you're OK, then tell you how we really feel. Just like my haircut - Aunt Rita liked it a little, but not enough. It stings because she was honest, but I don't have to hate her for it.
I ask you to be nice where it counts, be fair when you're honest, then but the hell out.