Let's be honest, each one of us has thrown a temper tantrum and said hurtful things to one another that we actually don't mean. But hey, don't beat yourself up about it—the best of us commit the silliest mistakes in the heat of the moment.
The fact is that in the English language (and most other languages) each word has multiple synonyms that express the same underlying message. The trick, however, lies in conveying your thoughts and feelings using the appropriate term. For instance, instead of blurting out "You're mean, I hate you", hold your tongue and take a moment to rephrase the sentence in your head. Alternatively, you could say, "I found your behaviour to be extremely inconsiderate towards me."
In the end, it all boils down to the ultimate truth—holding mutual respect for one another along with and communicating your needs and wants courteously is the secret to a healthy and happy relationship.
Founder of ImPerfect and a psychologist who consults on Practo, Urveez Kakalia explores the do's and don'ts of relationship talk—with an emphasis on sentences you should never utter to someone you care about.
Words/Phrases That Communicate Intolerance
Avoid saying sentences such as, "I can’t deal with this", "I can’t stand it when you do that" or "I find you intolerable". While you may certainly find something difficult to tolerate, trust us, there could be several ways around it. Plus, the fact that you’ve been tolerating it all along is proof. So, even if something is difficult to bear at the moment, consider eliminating your attitude of intolerance towards your partner.
Words/Phrases That Communicate a Demanding Attitude
Be wary of saying things that imply an absolute 'should', 'must', or 'have to'. For instance, "You should take me seriously when I'm speaking to you". Such words and phrases indicate a rigidity that accompanies a demand, implying that the partner must adhere to or fulfil the requirement. However, in reality, your partner doesn’t *have* to do anything, if they don't want to. So, when putting forward your expectations and preferences, make sure that they are reasonable and flexible, rather than being rigid and impractical.
Words/Phrases That Are Invalidating or Dismissing
This could sound like "Don’t be upset" or "You can’t be mad about this". Dismissing and invalidating your partner's thoughts, feelings, and personal experiences ain't going to do any good. Instead, spend some time trying to understand the situation from their perspective, empathise with their experiences, and validate their feelings, even if you don't necessarily agree with them. This will make way for more meaningful discussion rather than breeding resentment.
Words/Phrases That Are Belittling or Show Judgment
Trying to prove that you are better than your partner—on the whole, or based on something specific—will most likely affect their or your own self-esteem. In addition, it’s difficult to be in a happy relationship when partners aren’t feeling good about themselves in the first place. Instead, try to see yourself and your partner as flawed and equally worthy human beings, who can differ and vary in terms of 'goodness' on various occasions.
Words/Phrases That Imply a Universal Categorisation
Sentences including "You are mean" or "How selfish/inconsiderate" seems to be direct blame towards your partner. Using categorisation terms such as 'mean', 'dumb', 'egotistical', and 'self-centred' imply that you are associating these words to a person's entire being. However, most individuals tend to be mean, selfish, and self-centred at multiple stages in their life.
It is key to remember that their action or behaviour could be a one-off and may simply be a small part of them, rather than a marker of their whole identity. Try shifting the focus from the person to the particular behaviour, and say, "I found your behaviour/ action to be inconsiderate towards me. This way, you take ownership of your own thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Absolutes and Extremes
Arguments and disagreements often begin with, "You never…" or "You always...". Such language is not only accusatory but is also untrue—as it isn’t possible that one 'never' or 'always' does something. Instead, focus on what you are trying to communicate to your partner when you use such language. Typically, behind such terms lies a wish, a desire, or a hope to receive or do more of something. So why not discuss the matter with your significant other in a more direct manner?
Communicating in a Passive-Aggressive or Sarcastic Manner
While sarcasm can become a tool for bonding and fun, when used as a weapon in arguments, disagreements or misunderstandings, it is counter-productive to your relationship. It’s important to note that our flexible attitude (as discussed in point 1) will enable us to communicate assertively and that the passive-aggression is probably the result of a rigid, demanding attitude toward the specific situation, and/or the partner's behaviour at the time.
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