Sorry about the long title. Believe me, I could have made it even wordier…
So here’s a list of statements that won’t work. Please remove them immediately from your playbook. And next week, I’ll tell you how to respond if someone says any of these things to you.
1. You never . . . or you always . . . This is one of my personal favorites. Any statement that starts with those words is already accusatory, and will inevitably cause a defensive response. It’s also a ridiculous generalization.
2. Calm down. This sounds like a command or, at the very least, a demand. It’s also a criticism of someone else’s behavior, and likely will create the opposite effect.
3. Come here. To me, this is a bit of a threat and conversely, it sends me the message to go away. Did you mean to add “please?” Or “will you?” Or do you simply think you’re more important than me?
4. I’m not going to say this again. Seriously? It’s already about to be repeated! I kind of want to laugh out loud when someone says this to me, but because I have good manners, I don’t.
5. What’s your problem? Whether you emphasize “your” or “problem” is irrelevant. The statement implies that it’s going to be a “you vs. me” discussion, and not likely to lead to a productive conversation or an understanding.
6. It’s the rule. Rules need to be reasonable, and might require an explanation. A blanket statement that can be equated with “because I said so” is never a good idea. Remember when you were a child and your mom said that to you? Frustrating.
7. What do you want ME to do about it? This statement implies lack of responsibility and lack of concern. Imagine if you were attempting to return a broken toaster and the store manager asked you that question. How would you feel?
8. This is for your own good. I wonder who gets to decide what’s in my own best interest? I’m guessing it would be me.
9. It’s none of your business. Rude. Evasive. Non-responsive. Condescending. Rude. (I know, I said it twice — for emphasis.) Even if it’s truly none of your business, there must be another, nicer way to say it.
10. You wouldn’t understand. I find this statement the most insulting of all. Are you assuming we literally don’t speak the same language? Or that you’re infinitely smarter than me? I don’t think so.
I’m not expecting you to commit this list to memory so that you can erase it from your repertoire. And maybe you have already removed the words “always” and “never” from your vocabulary (bravo!). I’d suggest you tackle one or two this week and become conscious of these statements when you say them and also when you hear them.
Next week, I’m going to list these same 10 statements and instead of telling you why I think you shouldn’t use them, I’m going to suggest ways to respond when any of these statements is directed toward you.