Toxic and unhealthy words

November 30, 2011

unhealthy words

There are some words that we use that can be very toxic and unhealthy to our relationships.

Two of these words are “never” and “always“.

Have many times have you heard these words in an argument?

How many times have you said these words in an argument?

You never say you’re sorry!

You always put me down!

You never do the dishes!

You always get to choose what to watch on TV!

You never

You always

2 problems

There are two problems when we use these two words in these ways.

1. It is not true.

Nobody never or always does or doesn’t do something.  It may feel that way at times but it is not reality.  We need to choose accurate words to describe the situation.

2. It automatically puts the other person on the defensive.

Nobody likes to be accused of never or always doing or not doing something.  As a result we automatically get defensive.  Our first response is to say “No I don’t!” and then we usually follow that up with our own version of “You never …” or “You always …“.

The solution

The solution is to use this formula:  “I’ve noticed … and I would prefer …”  

Instead of saying “You never do the dishes!’  say “I’ve noticed that I’ve done the dishes the last three nights in a row and I would prefer that you did them tonight.”

This formula allows us to state the situation in an accurate and non-accusatory way.  It also allows us to state our preference or what we would like to happen in the situation.

Of course this is not a guarantee that the person will agree with you but it should allow for more healthy ongoing dialogue.

Are you guilty of saying never and always in arguments?  What are some more examples of how we use never and always in inappropriate ways?

Kevin Martineau

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I am the Pastor at Port Hardy Baptist Church on Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I am married to my best friend and I have three beautiful daughters.

14 responses to Toxic and unhealthy words

  1. I did it in Uganda a couple of times. The one that makes us grin a bit is when I would say, about travel, “I’ll never go on one of those noisy, crowded buses.” My husband groaned. “Joanne, don’t say ‘never’, because that will be the reason we have to do it.” WELL, when we left Uganda, we hadn’t been on one of those buses and I “won.” UNTIL… I was back in Uganda, alone, in a war zone. I spent a weekend in Kampala and needed to return to Soroti, about 150 miles, and had to take a bus… also needed to a couple weeks later to return that direction. Both times it was possible pastors would be traveling in those areas, and they planned to take me, but they ended up unable to leave when I needed to. So, I did it; it wasn’t overly pleasant, but I imagined it worse than it was. And the Lord did not let me get away with “never” and I “always” avoid saying that now.

    • Hi Joanne:

      That is definitely another way we use the word “never.” In bible school I said I never wanted to be a youth pastor and I ended up being one for 5 years. I also said I never wanted to be a preaching pastor (I wanted to be a Christian Education pastor) and I have been one for the last 10 years. I am so glad that God did not let me get away with my “never’s”. :)

      Thanks for sharing!
      Kevin

  2. Guilty and as soon as it slips I know I am in the wrong…

  3. Marsha S. Haneiph November 30, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    My usual faux pas is, “You never listen to me!” Shame, shame, shame

  4. Hi Kevin, those solution was really great and very helpful. glad you share this in here..

  5. I’ve pretty much removed never and always from my vocabulary. And I have conversations like this with my kids when they say things like “I NEVER get to go first.” I think they might be catching on.

  6. Steve-Personal Success Factors December 1, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    I’ve noticed, in my own marriage, that it’s when I let my anger take over that I start saying these kinds of statements. The key is to be angry but not out of control. If I can even remain prayerful even while angry, I’ll be more likely to use the right words. Thanks for these great tips!

  7. I have conversations like this with my kids when they say things like “I NEVER get to go first.” I think they might be catching on, thanks for the post, keep sharing.