Imperfect Phrases For Relationships

101 COMMON Things You Should Never Say TO Someone Important To You...And What To Say Instead

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Robert's books have sold over 300 thousand copies worldwide, and have been translated into Chinese, French, German and Japanese.

He holds a Masters Degree in Applied Psychology, and has taught clinical and counselling psychology at the college level.

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· That’s not going to work.

· That’s never going to work. Here, do it this way.


Both of the examples portray the speaker as negative, more informed than the other person, and worse, controlling.

It’s easy to understand that you might use phrases like this with perfectly good intent; to save the other person, time, grief, hassle, and even embarrassment. You may mean well, but you probably will not get the positive response you expect for “helping”. You may end up actually making the other person less confident in trying new things or stretching their boundaries.

This is particularly true for children, who can be hypersensitive to parental remarks. Mistakes provide opportunities to learn, provided the consequences aren’t overly severe.

With adults, the problem is that unless you SUGGEST ways to do it better, or have been ASKED to help, your unsolicited negativity will be seen as meddling or controlling.

 Make It Better:

Remember that you are offering an OPINION with phrases like this, not an outright fact. It might seem like an obvious fact to YOU, but bottom line, it’s still an opinion about the future. So, by softening your phrasing, and making clear you are stating an opinion, you can help while encouraging the other person to try on his or her on. The message to send is: “It’s my opinion. I’m pretty sure, but it’s my opinion”.

 · Becky, in my opinion, that’s probably not going to work, so if you want to consider other ways, let me know.

· Tom, I’ve never seen that approach work before, but it’s up to you if you want to try it that way.

 In the case of children, it’s all about timing, and using what you know about your child. Before intervening, if you see him or her struggling consider whether:

· The impact of a mistake is really important. Is safety at stake, or is it simply that you don’t like to see your child struggle with something?

· Your child is clearly frustrated and looks like he or she may give up. That would suggest you might want to intervene (gently).

· It might be better to let your child learn to deal with small frustrations on his or her own.

 Try these phrasings:

 · Sport, if you want a hand, just let me know.

· Bobby, try sticking with it for another five minutes, and then I’d be glad to help.

· Sharon, good progress. If you want a hint about what to try next, just ask.



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