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5 words that get in the way of healthy communicationand one cure-all antidote
Ban these five communication blockers from your conversations, and replace them with a universal opener to understanding. - photo by Jana Parkin
It took me a long time to learn that my black-and-white way of viewing relationships was causing more problems than the issues I was addressing. The following five words, and the way I employed them, were mostly to blame. When one of my relationships hit crisis level, I realized it was time for a change.

The following are five words I've decided to erase from my vocabulary:

1. Always

It drives my husband crazy when I drop this bomb, which is usually more like an accusation: Why do you always? Does it always have to be me who? etc.

Reality favors my husband. The chance that someone ALWAYS does ANYTHING is entirely rare. Because ALWAYS also implies this behavior will continue into the future, ad infinitum. This puts our loved ones in a box (albeit a box in our heads) from which they can't escape. It is a form of entrapment.

2. Never

This is another word that is banned from our home. Its an accusation word: You never take out the trash, You never say thank you, You never apologize etc. This is an unhealthy label.

By attaching it to our partner or children, we could be branding them for life. The chances that this person has NEVER done this thing ever Well, again, this is completely rare.

3, 4, 5. You Make Me (fill in the blank)

The truth is, no one can really make us do or feel anything. Everything is a choice, whether conscious or unconscious. By telling a loved one, You make meso angry, late for work, whatever it is, youre shifting blame from your own plate to someone elses. Its an accusation that instantly puts your loved one on the defensive.

Gratefully, there is an antidote. In this season of New Years resolutions, consider banning the words Always, Never, and You make me and replace them with the great smoother-outer of relationship wrinkles: I feel.

We spent a fair amount of time in family counseling with one of our children. And one of the most valuable takeaways was how to share an I feel statement to begin discussion of an emotionally-charged topic.

The full statement template is- I feel (blank) when you (blank) because (blank). In the future I hope (blank).

Heres an example:

Instead of You always leave your dirty socks on the floor! say, I feel frustrated when you leave your dirty socks on the floor, because it seems like you expect me to pick up after you. In the future, I hope youll toss them in the laundry bin on your way upstairs.

Youre still expressing that you feel strongly about the action, but youre saying it in a way that addresses your feelings rather than throwing up an accusation. And youre proposing a solution.

Heres another one:

Instead of You never apologize after an argument, try, I feel hurt when you dont apologize after an argument, because it seems like youre still blaming me. In the future I hope youll acknowledge your role in the disagreement and say youre sorry for that.

Again, youre expressing how you feel about a given scenario, without labeling or accusing, and your spell out what youd like to see instead.

And finally:

Instead of You make me so mad! say, I feel angry when you treat me like that because it seems like you dont appreciate my contributions. In the future I hope youll respond more respectfully when I ask you to help out.

This approach takes all of the accusation out of your communication, but still acknowledges and expresses how you feel about the situation, and defines your expectations.

Put this to work in your relationships today, and feel empowered to speak openly and calmly to resolve conflicts.
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