He's a pain in the butt, a killjoy, a potentially lethal threat to dreams and ambitions. And yet he sneaks around unnoticed, under the clever guise of "the voice of reason". Or "the level headed sensible one warning about potential danger". Yet to those who encounter him - those who have the big ideas, others who may already have had to dig really deep to find the courage to voice their opinion in the first place - to these people he's the demolition man. His huge steel wrecking-ball destroying hopes and splintering frameworks of possibilities that were beginning to form a structure. One mighty swoop. Straight hit. Annihilation. Devastation. And all in less time than it takes to pour a cup of coffee.
Can you recognise him yet? He can be tricky to spot at first - for he can take form as a male or female. He has no body, no real identity of his own. He choses instead to latch on to anyone who will give him just the slightest opportunity. That's how he survives. And until you can spot him, he'll return time and time and time again, like an unwelcome visitor. The thing is though, until you can identify him, you won't even know he's visited you! You may not even notice if he's visited your friends or colleagues!
You may not... but somebody will. Because every time Arbutt turns up, at least one person is left less confident than they were before he arrived. While that person may not have noticed how it happened, they will be left reeling from the after effects. And if you look carefully, you'll be able to spot just who has been affected. It will be the person who's face has suddenly lost its smile. Who's shoulders have slumped a little. Who's suddenly gone quiet. The person who's dropped their gaze and perhaps stepped back from the group. That is the person who's been hit by Arbutt's wrecking ball. And the damage has been done.
And until more of us become aware of him, and become more vigilant about policing his activities, more people are going to end up with broken dreams and a shattered confidence. Which is why I am asking whether you've seen him? Whether you'd even be able to spot him if he turned up among your group of colleagues or friends?
If you're still confused and scratching your head, perhaps it will help you if I gave you his full name. He's been around since god was a boy so has a long lineage and a grand double barrelled name. Once you hear it I know you'll recognise him. And all at once you'll be able to identify his familiar all too familiar calling card. Are you ready?
His full name is Arbutt The-Prollem.
When he appears he usually causes people to fold their arms and shake their heads. Some will even waggle a finger as well. It will often be in a lively discussion that he'll suddenly turn up, just as some of the best ideas and most encouraging solutions are beginning to form. For that's when he loves to strike, and suck up all of that positive energy for himself. All of a sudden somebody will suck in a deep breath, lean backwards, fold their arms, shake their head... and then it happens. That same person will open their mouth and say the words "Ah, but the problem is...." and there he is. Slap bang in the middle of the group, and nobody even noticed him sneak in!
I'll bet you can now think back over countless situations when Arbutt has been in your presence. Do you remember the effect he had on the conversation or business meeting? He may even have snuck in and persuaded you to host his arrival on some occasions. So let's take a fresh look at the powerful effect he can have. Let's acknowledge the original intention of the person who says "Ah, but the problem is..." as well as the reactions from those who hear those words.
Let's start with the speaker. Their intention is usually positive. Caution always has a valuable part to play in any discussion, as does the calm voice of reason. So the intention is absolutely to be commended. When hijacked by Arbutt, that positive intention cannot be fulfilled. For just by mentioning his name (or that of his brother, Yesbutt) all previously aired ideas are automatically erased or dismissed. Instantly. Deadly to the flow of conversation. Think about it. Imagine you've just put forward an idea or opinion - you've usually ended the sentence with "Isn't it?" or something similar, and are likely smiling and nodding your head. The person you are talking with has another opinion to put forward and starts the sentence with"Yes.. but...." and continues with his view. The very second that Arbutt or Yesbutt are introduced, you automatically stop smiling and nodding. You do something else. You might furrow your brow. You might start to feel a bit niggled. You may even feel angry. Or you might just close down and decide not to say anymore.
Whatever happens, the flow of conversation and group thought has just been disrupted. It's now become disjointed. And much more energy is required to get it back on track.
It has nothing whatsoever to do with that person having a different opinion from yours! That is to be expected and accepted in any discussion. It has everything to do with how that opinion is introduced.
"OK then, so what would you suggest?" I hear you ask.
Well, luckily all of Arbutt, Yesbutt, Wellbutt, Nobutt and indeed all the little butts have an arch enemy in who's presence they simply cannot survive. Familiar to all of us, few people acknowledge her power. Her name is Yezzand. A mightier force is harder to find in the art of communication and negotiation. For with Yezzand in your toolbox, you're equipped for just about any eventuality!
Shall we have a go?
Let's go back to that original scenario - the one where you had just presented an idea or offered an opinion. You've just finished and are smiling and nodding, waiting for a response. Let's suppose that the other person, in PLACE of the"Yes...but..." we've already explored (which automatically accompanied with a shake of the head and often a folding of arms) instead nods and smiles and says "Yes.... and.." and then goes on to explain their opinion as well? Think about it... what would you be doing? You may agree or you may disagree with what is being said. Either way, you will be taking on the other person's perspective, expanding your understanding and still feel in the mood to continue with the discussion.
It seems so simple - and it is. Yes, it takes some getting used to, and once you're fluent you'll be amazed at the difference it can have in conversation, even if the people involved have totally opposite opinions! This is a true-life example of a conversation I witnessed between two people in a newly decorated pub:
Imagine what could have happened had any of those Butts turned up?
So, my invitation to you right here and right now, is to be vigilant. Stay aware and keep Arbutt, Yesbutt and all the other members of the family out of your conversation. Instead, invite Yezzand to take her well deserved place of power, and notice how much smoother discussions can be - yes, even when you don't necessarily agree with what's been saying!
Three word slogans have a history of being strong and powerful "Just say no!" "Frankie says relax!" "Just do it!" so here's one to help us fight against the on-going threat from Arbutt and his invisible family:
"KICK THE BUT!"