I once drove a Dodge station wagon with faux wood paneling. Enough said.
Now that I’ve confessed to you, it’s your turn. When you’re in an argument with your kid, do you find yourself making statements that begin with “You never . . .?” I think we all do. I was working with a divorcing couple recently, and they asked me to help them communicate in a more respectful way. The wife felt unappreciated and said to the husband, “You never give me a compliment.” He immediately denied it, and why? Because she said “never.” It’s an absolute, and using it guarantees a push-back.
“You never put your dirty clothes in the hamper,” and “You never fill up the car after you’ve borrowed it” are other statements I often hear when I’m conducting a family mediation. What could these aggravated parents have said instead? What words would have better helped their cause?
Take yourself back in time to the first computer you ever purchased. Remember when you were told it had loads of memory and you’d never run out? And what about your first cell phone plan with limits on either minutes or data, or both? Although the sales associate assured you that you’d never use them up, how long did it take you before you did?
Hopefully, your alarm is now set to go off the next time a “never” statement is directed at you. When it happens (notice, I didn’t say “if it happens . . .), try to remember these three points:
- Don’t believe everything you’re hearing.
- Understand that you’re being baited, so don’t immediately answer by defending yourself.
- Whatever you do, make sure you don’t respond with a “never” statement of your own.
Instead, try to figure out what the person is really saying and, more importantly, delicately remove yourself from the situation by asking for some thinking time before you respond. Asking for thinking time is definitely a good idea when you’re dealing with a trained salesperson. If you’re dealing with a family member or an employer, it’s imperative that you ask for thinking time if your instinct tells you the conversation could become verbally abusive.
In any event, I think we all need some wiggle room. Eliminating the “never” from your statements will guarantee that wiggle room, not to mention you’ll save face if your statement is called into question.
Obviously, there are occasions where using the word is acceptable. Here’s my list:
(1) I will never forget the 6,000,000 who died in the Holocaust.
(2) I will never forget 9/11.
(3) I will never use the “N” word.
When I started writing, I thought I’d have more than three things on my list. Turns out these are the most meaningful to me. And now I’m curious about your own list, so I’m inviting you to comment with some other examples of when you think it’s okay to say “never.”