When you never say never in your conversations and especially in arguments, you destroy the walls that prevent great communication. Jennifer and John teach us what it looks like to get this wrong.
In exasperation Jennifer tells her husband, “you never do the dishes, you’re always sitting around after dinner and you never help!” John gives his wife a passing glance and then goes back to his iPhone. “I always make dinner and do the dishes,” Jennifer says almost in tears.
John mutters, “Why are you always nagging me about the little things? You never mow the lawn and I always wash the cars. I never make a big deal about that!” Pleased with his retort, John gets up from the dinner table and plops down on the couch to continue watching YouTube on his phone.
Ruthlessly Eliminate Always and Never
If you want to change the way you argue and communicate, ruthlessly eliminate always and never from your arguments. Never say never again!
Have you ever had an argument like this with your spouse or significant other? I know I have. This type of argument doesn’t end well for anyone. If you hear or say the words never or always in an argument, you’re in for a world of hurt. These two words are rarely accurate and immediately create communication problems.
Think back to your last argument. Did you use never or always” as part of the points you were making? Or perhaps, the points being made against you?
So how do we eliminate these words from our arguments?
Start By Recognizing the Foolishness of This Type of Communication
Let’s look at some of the damaging statements we’ve all said or heard.
- You never listen to me.
- I never said that.
- You never told me that.
- You always get what you want.
- I never get what I want.
- You’re always out with your friends.
- I always get the kids ready for bed.
Each of us has said at least one of these silly sentences above. The funny thing is, no matter who you are or who your spouse is, these statements are all either false or cause the receiver to become defensive immediately.
When we argue with these types of absolutes nobody wins. Pay attention this week to how often you say always or never in your conversations. As you take notice of this try and shift your vocabulary. Here are some replacement phrases that may help.
Try Using A Different Approach
- I’m not sure if you’re hearing what I have to say. Let me try again.
- If that is what you heard, I’m sorry, that is not what I meant.
- I’m sorry, I don’t remember you saying that.
- You’re right, I can be a little selfish. I’m sorry.
- This is important to me, can you help me make this happen?
- Let’s plan some time together for just the two of us.
- Can we work together to get the kids to bed tonight?
When these words are spoken with the proper tone and attitude, communication is far more likely to occur. Compare the two lists and see if you can insert your own words to fit your relationship.
Change Your Tone and Reflect
The second list illustrates a few valuable changes in communication. The tone changed from accusation to humility. Instead of the absolute statements, we get apologies and acceptance of fault. The second list also shows more reflection instead of reaction, you can sense more patience in the statements and questions.
In these sentences, three things begin to happen. The tone changes from accusation to humility. The statements are no longer absolute and fault finding but reflect apologies and acceptance of fault. Lastly, there is a change in attitude. Instead of emotionally reacting, we get reflection, patience, and helpful questions.
Let’s see what the argument looks like with the new approach.
The Never say Never Approach to the Argument
In exasperation, Jennifer tells her husband, “you never do the dishes, you’re always just sitting around and staring at your iPhone. Then I’m always stuck doing the dishes!” John looks up from his iPhone. “I’m sorry, let me help you. I do get too distracted by my phone.” John sets his iPhone down and walks over to start drying the dishes shoulder to shoulder with his wife.
In this scenario, Jennifer is still pissed but instead of a retaliatory statement coming from John’s mouth he stays humble and not accusatory, then he reflects on his own actions, apologizes for his distraction, and begins to help.This may be a simple and silly example, but I bet the night goes a lot better in this scenario.
When communicating with your spouse, simple tweaks to your attitude and words can change the whole tone of an evening. For good or for bad. So never say never again and avoid always whenever possible. It seems too simple to make a difference, but I dare you to try.
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