Whether you are already in a relationship or just beginning one, knowing what not to say can be as important as knowing what to say. Maybe more. How often do you want to give yourself a swift kick for having said something you wished you hadn’t?
It is much easier to keep from putting your foot in your mouth than removing it later. Jeremi McManus, San Francisco relationship coach and psychotherapist, has some subtle advice on this topic with his “3 Words to Toss (and make your relationships better!)” “Choose your words wisely,” he says. He points out the importance of considering how the receiver of your words will feel.
The words, perhaps surprisingly enough, are “should”, “why” and “but”. Three little words that can lead to heartache. How inadequate can you feel when someone tells you what you should have done? Consider, “You are so good at making people feel better, you should have become a doctor.” Ouch. Seems you made the wrong decision in life, no? “You should have bought apples instead.” Ouch again. Every “should” can imply a wrong decision. Jeremi likes Jan Addington-Strong’s quote, “Don’t should on anyone, especially yourself.” How about just saying, “You are so good at making people feel better,” and let the appreciation and the compliment sink in.
How about “why”? Jeremi says it calls for defending yourself. “Why didn’t you finish your homework?” or, to shift our earlier example, “Why didn’t you become a doctor?” How about just not asking these kinds of questions in that form?
“But,” Jeremi warns us, is one of the great barriers against connecting with others. It does seem that “but,” has the power to delete the good feelings that came before it. Your new friend says to you, “Isn’t my cousin wonderful? You say, “I like her a lot, but she talks too much.” What’s with the “but?” How about simply, “I like her a lot.”
Jeremi, who knows what emotional safety is, suggests listening to people to see how many times they automatically use these three little words and the effect they have and then trying to live without these three words for a week. See how it goes.
Because your words have more power than you think, it may be wisest for you to consider the consequence before uttering them? Ditching these three little words is good advice in the art of writing love letters as well. And, because a love letter is about the wonderful qualities of the person to whom you are writing, don’t you want that person to feel the most loved by you and without judgment? It seems a skill so attainable and so worth perfecting for the sake of the love you have or the love you hope to have.
From me to you with love in the air,
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