In the early 1990s, Chic Thompson and Lael Lyons wrote a wonderful book called Yes, But…The Top 40 Killer Phrases and How You Can Fight Them
While the book was playful and filled with cartoon illustrations, the idea was serious. It was about those killer phrases that fill corporate meeting rooms everyday:
We’ve done that before.
It's not in the budget.
Great idea, but not for us.
Get a committee to look into that.
I'll get back to you.
Don't rock the boat.
Let me play devil's advocate.
The last person who said that isn't here anymore.
Recently, I’ve noticed a curious mutation on the infamous, “yes but.”
It’s IKB or (I know, but…)
The difference is slight but it’s definitely a new species.
“I know but tosses” in what James Pennybaker, the chair of psychology at the University of Texas Austin would call pronoun revealing.
“I” is a pronoun rife with self focus. In fact, Pennybaker’s research showed that depressed people use the pronoun “I” more often than emotionally stable people. And people who consider themselves lower in status use “I” much more frequently.
But what’s equally revealing is that “I know, but” is a signal. It’s a signal that the person has either wrestled with this idea before or wants you to understand what they know or believe.
A few years ago, I consulted with a CEO who was having problems with one his executives. In exit interviews, employees consistently mentioned this manager as one of their reasons for leaving. This executive was a world-class micro-manager.
When I asked the CEO about this executive and the results of the exit interviews, he said, “I know, but…”
So I said, let’s look at what you’ve just said. “I know but…” Tell me what you know.
One of the knows was the lynchpin. The CEO and the executive were friends and the relationship was important to him.
If you find yourself using the phrase “I know, but” with increasing frequency, write down the “I knows…”
As Mark Twain eloquently wrote:
“It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”
Good insight for any age.