“You never listen to me anyhow.” A friend recently recounted a story to me where a relative said this to her. As she told the story, it was clear how that one phrase instantly turned a fairly calm conversation into an all-out argument. We’ve all had something similar happen. Whether it’s in the workplace or at home, a few words can escalate a conversation quickly. I’m sure many of us have attended trainings or read about the words you should avoid saying during conflict. To refresh your memory, here’s a quick listing of words that can escalate a conflict, whether you mean to or not.
- Words like “but,” “no,” “can’t,” or “won’t” all make the other person feel rejected, dismissed, and helpless.
- Using the word “you” in an accusatory way immediately puts the other person on the defensive.
- Saying words like “should,” “shouldn’t,” “don’t,” or “better not” makes the other person feel inferior and resentful of your authoritative statements.
- The words “always” and “never” are generalizing words that are heard by the other person as harsh absolutes.
Since there are a lot of words on this list, it may be helpful to focus on eliminating one of these phrases from your vocabulary during potentially tense conversations.