When you ask couples who’ve been married 30-plus years about the key to a successful marriage, the majority will probably tell you, “having good communication”. So, what exactly does this mean? It’s not just about talking, but the words and phrases that are being said.
Psychotherapist, Mel Schwartz, writes in a piece for Psychology Today that we often take for granted that our words convey exactly what we want them to. In other words, what and how we phrase things, can easily be misconstrued by our partner. “By the time a few sentences have passed, we may have a totally missed-communication,” he says.
You can bypass a potential relationship dust-up by avoiding these 6 phrases.
“You should (do this, or that)” – Telling your partner what they “should” do can make them feel like you’re the boss of them. Life coach and author of Says Who?, Ora Nadrich, says, “A better way to suggest what you think would be good for them to do is to say, “It might be a good idea” or “Maybe you could” or “You might want to think about, consider, or try.”
“I hate when you” – “Hate” is a harsh word, so starting a sentence off with it can come off aggressive or angry. If you want to voice your feelings of displeasure or dissatisfaction, say, “It doesn’t make me feel good when you (do this, or say that)” or “It bothers me when you” or “I feel disrespected, or not listened to when you,” says Nadrich. Keep the focus on how YOU feel, don’t point fingers.
“Do (this), Get (that)” – Remember, manners matter. You don’t want to sound like an ungrateful master ordering around their servant. Take a lesson from Kindergarten 101 and use your “please”, “thank you’s” and “may I’s”. Try rewording your requests by saying something like, “You know I adore it when you…” or “I so appreciate it when you…”. Relationship expert and psychologist, Dr. Karen Ruskin, says, “If you use phrases that predict that the other person will do your request—and do it nicely—you’re more likely to get it.”
“It’s all your fault” – Even if your partner is 100% to blame for something that’s happened, casting blame only adds insult to injury. Nadrich says before accusing, check in with yourself to make sure that you didn’t contribute to an unpleasant outcome even in the slightest way. Then, address their fault by saying something like, “You might have thought about this more carefully” or “I hope this opened your eyes to how to avoid this from happening again”.
“You always do this” – Telling your partner that they always do something can sound like you’re judging them. You’re not in a relationship to be judged. If you find that they do something that bothers you frequently, a better way to say it could be “It seems like you’ve been doing this more often” or “This has been coming up a lot lately.”
“You’re never going to (do this or that, or be this or that)” – Besides sounding like a snob and downright mean, telling your partner that they’re never going to be something, or be able to do something is basically telling them that they’re never going to change. As frustrated as you may be with your partner’s habits or annoying mannerisms, it’s better to encourage the other by saying, “Why don’t you try this” or “You’ve been doing it that way for a long time, and might want to consider doing it differently” or “I know you can do this.”