Building strong relationships with others is essential in all areas of our lives: business, friendships, dating, parenting, etc. However, our daily word choices can undermine our attempts at getting closer to other people.
We can unwittingly be marking ourselves as untrustworthy, judgmental, and belittling when we use the following words in our everyday interactions.
Language is important! Beware how you use the following words…
Unless you’re psychic and know the entire future, saying that something will never happen or someone will never accomplish something makes you seem like a know-it-all. And, when what you said would never happen comes true, you come off as untrustworthy. Use these alternatives to “never” in your everyday conversations.
- “It’s hard to image that you’ll…” instead of “You’ll never…”
- “I don’t think I could bring myself to…” instead of “I’ll never…”
- “I haven’t ever noticed…” instead of “That never happens…”
Saying something always happens or someone always does something can lead to
feelings of resentment in people. If you say Karen is always late, and she remembers multiple occasions when she was on time, she may feel resentful that you don’t recognize when she is on time. Use these alternatives to “always” in your daily interactions.
- “She usually says that…” instead of “She always says that…”
- “People who do that often end up…” instead of “People who do that always end up…”
- “I’ll try to be here for you when I can,” instead of “I’ll always be here for you.”
“Can’t” can make people uncomfortable sharing business ideas or future plans with you. “Can’t” can also push some people to try everything in their power to prove you wrong, so you become their enemy instead of their trusted partner. Which effect the regular use of ‘can’t’ will have on someone depends on their personality. Regardless, neither of these responses helps build a healthy relationship with them because you’ll be seen as someone who doesn’t believe in them or doesn’t respect their autonomy. Try these alternatives instead.
- “It might be easier if you had some help,” instead of “You can’t do it alone.”
- “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t speak to me that way.” instead of “You can’t talk to me like that.”
- “Time to make a new plan to get this done.” instead of “I can’t do this.”
Should is one of the most judgmental words you can use. Telling people what they should or shouldn’t do, say, or think makes you the judge and ruler of their thoughts and decisions. Try these alternatives to “should”.
- “I’ve had trouble with that it the past,” instead of “You shouldn’t do that.”
- “I wish she had called first,” instead of “She should have called.”
- “I hope you can find solace in the fact that…” instead of “You should be happy that…”
When a relationship doesn’t seem as close and healthy as you’d like it to be – including your own view of yourself – take a look at the language you use to talk about yourself and other people. Often, a simple change in vocabulary can make all the difference between healthy, fruitful, comfortable relationships and unpleasant relationships.
Mike Bundrant is author of the book Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage.
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