There is power in the words we use. Words shape behaviors, beliefs, and perceptions.
When words leave our mouths, they can bring joy and comfort to our loved ones. Words can also create havoc and lead to broken hearts.
Knowing which words to avoid can help you foster better relationships with people inside and outside your social circle.
Here are 12 phrases to erase from your vocab for better healthier relationships.
1) “Sorry, but…”
Top of the list is this hurtful oxymoron.
When you intend to apologize to someone, simply saying ‘sorry’ can assuage their pain and mend their heart.
Adding this word after the apology spoils everything. ‘But’ tends to negate the apology and makes the contrition appear half-hearted, forced, or insincere.
So next time you pick an argument with your loved one, remember to stop at ‘Sorry’. You don’t want to add fuel to the raging fire, do you?
If there is a synonym for ‘I don’t give a f$%*’, then this is it.
There is certainly a reason why Americans have voted “whatever”’ as the most annoying phrase nine years on the trot.
Here is why:
When you tell someone whatever, you have essentially dismissed their feelings and opinions, however valid they might be.
Throwing this word into your relationships displays arrogance and disrespect towards your counterpart.
Crucially, this phrase leads to a slippery slope as it shuts out respectful engagement in the future.
So, no matter how angry, tired or bored you might be, try to erase this phrase from your subconscious. It will save your skin.
3) “I don’t care.”
If you succeed in removing whatever from your vocab, don’t leave this other phrase behind. Because it’s equally soul-destroying.
You are in the relationship because you actually care. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be there in the first place.
So where does this phrase come from? Perhaps out of anger or most likely you’re avoiding accountability.
In such situations, ‘I don’t care’ becomes the obvious escape route. Using this phrase, whether at work or with your loved ones, displays a negative and dismissive attitude.
Rather than uttering this epithet, how about taking a walk and calming down a bit? This way, you have time and composure to respond in a way that shows you care.
Because you do.
4) “Relax” or “Calm down”
You might be wondering why these two phrases made it to this list. Aren’t they supposed to cool things down? Well, they can, but not always!
Here is the catch:
When your partner or friend is mad at you or something, they may want to vent for a while before calming down.
However, when you utter this prompt, you might be interfering with or short-circuiting the venting or healing process.
This phrase might also imply that they are overreacting or acting irrationally, which can lead to more adverse reactions.
5) “You always…” or “You never…”
“You never appreciate my efforts…” “You always snub my calls…”
How does reading the above statements make you feel? Did you feel like someone has already judged you?
Now imagine being on the receiving end of such phrases day in, day out!
‘You always’ and ‘You never’ are what we may refer to as absolute statements, in that they are all-or-nothing phrases. They mostly stem out of frustration.
Such phrases generalize someone’s behavior down to a single instance, which in most cases is not an accurate reflection of the person.
Absolute statements also tend to draw defensive reactions and reduce relationships to a game of keeping scores of who did what or didn’t do.
Any moment you want to resolve an issue, you’re reminded of what you stated in absolute language.
Break the cycle and erase all-or-nothing phrases from your relationships.
6) “Just let it go.”
The advice to ‘let it go’ is one of the most damaging phrases you can say to your partner, especially while emotions are running high.
For instance, let’s say you were furious with someone at work. When you got home that day, your partner tells you to ‘let it go’ without even trying to understand what happened.
All you want to do in this circumstance is vent. You’re not necessarily requesting that your partner confront the bothersome colleague. ‘Let it go’ won’t make you feel better.
7) “I wish you were more like…”
Comparing your partner with someone else can be a stonewall deal-breaker.
And for a good reason.
If the other person is better than your partner, why are you not with them?
When you tell somebody…I wish you were more like…, the person feels a sense of rejection. They may feel small, undeserving of your love or attention, and may start looking inwards at the expense of the relationship.
Personally, I felt sick when my parents used this strategy to help me improve my school grades. Comparing me with other children made me hate my friends instead of embracing the academic challenge.
No one likes to be compared to other people. Doing so is demeaning and can do more harm than good to a person’s self-esteem.
Always keep in mind that everyone has a unique personality.
8) “You are nothing without me.”
Everyone has the value they bring to a relationship.
While you can feel you are doing the heavy lifting, the other person may be feeling the same way too.
Telling your partner that they are nothing without you is condescending and downright insulting.
It indicates you are doing them a mighty favor by being with them. It also shows that you’re unappreciative of their contribution to the relationship.
9) “I’m busy.”
Well, you might actually be busy, but just don’t say it to your partner or to those you truly value.
Expressing how busy you are shows your misplaced priorities and lack of time management skills.
If you can’t create time for your loved ones, it means some things are more important than them.
Armed with this knowledge, they will also find more important things to do.
When you’re finally available for them, you may find that they have moved on without you.
You started it all, remember?
10) “It’s not a big deal.”
We all hold different perspectives in life. Something may not be a big deal to you, but it could mean the world to your partner.
Saying something is not a big deal in the middle of an argument may create the impression that you’re taking issues lightly.
It could also imply you’re avoiding taking responsibility for your action or inaction.
Regularly making a light meal of issues may lead to a pile-up of ‘not-so-big-deals’, which may eventually boomerang on the relationship.
It’s advisable to reflect the seriousness of the other party on any given issue and avoid the tendency of sweeping things under the carpet, which may cause deeper misunderstanding in the future.
11) “I know.”
Strong relationships thrive on effective communication, part of which involves active listening.
Saying I know to your partner when they are trying to pass some information to you can be a real turnoff.
Interjecting conversations at every turn with this phrase shows that you’re not interested in what the other person is saying.
You’re literally jumping the gun and purporting to read their mind to arrive at what they want to say next or how the story ends.
This might not be the case, as they may be preparing the ground for new ideas or fresh perspectives.
Using this phrase also portrays you as judgmental.
No one wants to be judged unheard; in a court of law or elsewhere.
12) “Leave me alone.”
It’s normal to need some time by yourself to reflect or process your feelings when you’re angry.
Personally, I prefer to be left alone when I am hurt. Whenever my partner comes close to find out why I am hurting, my immediate reaction is to tell them to leave me alone. Even when they are not the cause of the feeling.
It’s a phrase I am trying hard to shed off from my vocabulary.
One way I have found effective is discussing why I want to be left alone for a while.
Seeing your partner as one who is there to help you with the problem at hand shows respect for their effort rather than belittling it.
Words have a lot of power, especially when they are hurtful. It may seem easier to use toxic language when you’re at your most emotional state.
Regardless of how candid you are with someone you love, there are some words you shouldn’t say to them.
More than anything else, you should show respect for the other person by avoiding using injurious vocabularies.
If you keep using harmful language, your relationship won’t flourish and can even end prematurely.
To figure out if you are complicit in saying these phrases, it is critical to understand how toxic partners communicate. Read self-help books and talk to a counselor to help you polish your vocab.
It is never too late to make the decision to change for the better.