They slice and dice, cutting wounds not easily healed by pacifying words.
They inflame like a lit match near gasoline.
They suck the life out of all that they touch.
They’re the zingers we fling at each other during arguments, the cruel and aggressive wisecracks or retorts that escalate a fight like nothing else. And when the zingers begin to outnumber the kind words spoken to each other, it may be too late to fix the relationship because the love has dried up and blown away.
Learning how to communicate well in a conflict—how to argue without hurting and insulting each other—is possibly the most important relationship survival skill ever. Doing so reduces divorce and domestic violence rates—and increases personal happiness, relationship satisfaction and peace of mind.
Here, then, are a few one-liners you’d do well to avoid:
“That’s not what’s happening here!” This is just one of many versions of the line: “I’m right and you’re wrong!” And whether you say it or just think it, the only thing “You’re wrong!” creates is a lose-lose situation.
“You always…” or “You never…” Starting a sentence with either two-word phrase is guaranteed to raise temperatures. How about stating instead that the other person does XYZ “more times than feels good.” Rather than, “You never listen to me,” try something like this: “When you respond that way, I get the sense that you’re not understanding me in the way I’d like you to.”
“You really know how to hurt me.” This line assumes that the other person is intentionally trying to hurt you. It also implies that someone other than yourself has power over what you feel. It places you in the role of emotional “victim.” But you can choose whether or not to be hurt by someone’s actions.
“How can you be that way?” This isn’t really a question. It’s an aggressive statement something to the effect of, “You’re a terrible person, and you should be ashamed of yourself.”
Of course, these are mild, compared to the doozies we can come up with in the heat of an argument. But for love to flourish and deepen, for healthy and long-lasting relationships, we need to learn how to incorporate acceptance, self-understanding, compassion, and tolerance into our conflicts. And maybe one-liners like, “I love you!”
Don’t forget to tune into our new podcast. Our latest podcast episode is on the Great Resignation. We look at what’s behind our discontent and what we can do about it. You can find the latest episode here. Please feel free to pass it on to anyone whom you think might find it useful.