Reversing “Buts”

“Dwelling on the negative simply contributes to its power.”

~ Shirley MacLaine

Reversing “Buts”

By Michael Neill

I believe the credit for this one goes to John McWhirter, a UK-based NLP trainer. I originally came across it as a sales technique for handling objections, but I’ve used it a lot in my own personal development work….

How many times have you heard sentences like this?

“I’d like to hear more about your idea, but I haven’t got time right now.”
“I think you’re a really great person, but I’m not ready for a relationship.”
“It sounds great, but I can’t afford it.”

Most of us have learned to disregard whatever comes before the “but” and take the second half of the sentence as the speakers “actual” message. But what happens if you reverse the sentence, using the “but” as the pivot point, and then take things a step further in the direction we want them to go?

Try reading the following examples out loud, emphasizing the underlined phrase!:

“So you haven’t got time right now, but you’d love to hear more about this? When would be a better time to set up a meeting?”

“Let me see… you’re not ready for a relationship, but you think I’m a really great person? How about if we just hang out together for a while?”

“If I’m understanding you, you can’t afford it, but it sounds great? Well if it sounds great, let’s see if we can’t sort out a way for you to afford it!”

Today’s Experiment:

1. Complete the following sentence stems. You may complete each one as many different ways as you would like.

a. I want to be successful, but…
b. I want to be healthy, but…
c. I want to exercise, but…
d. I want to have more money, but…
e. I want a great relationship, but…
f.  I want to be true to myself, but…

2. Choose your favorite completions from part one. Reverse the “but”, and sell yourself on a new belief!


  1. I want to have more money, but I don’t want to do more work.
  2. I don’t want to do more work, but I do want to have more money. What are twenty things I could do to make more money with less work?

Have fun and learn heaps!

Copyright 2011 Michael Neill, author of Supercoach: 10 Secrets to Transform Anyone’s Life.  All rights reserved – Read more tips at

Coaching Call To Action

This week do what Michael suggests.  I bet you will have some ah-ha’s (and perhaps some ha-ha’s)!