Hello, and welcome to the post I am writing immediately after having a conflict. WELCOME TO REAL LIFE.
HOWEVER, this is when the sparks started-a-flowin. So here we are. I almost didn’t want to write this because, like I said, moments ago I was one of the main competitors in a heated debate. What right do I have to hash all of this out?
Um – every right. Because this is the real side of being a human, being in existence, and learning (learrrrning) as you go. I’m not a master of this list. This list exists because I have either said them, have struggled NOT saying them, or have been deeply hurt and shut off from having had them said TO me. But I have stepped into the realization of their impact, so I am now responsible for the knowledge I have — to practice it and bring my best to every relationship I’m in including my friends, my momma, my boy, errrbody.
*and to clarify, I did not get some kind of “instant download” after my conflict. This is a list I have being feeling the Lord speak, which after having my heated debate, I finally caved into admitting my ways weren’t going to work. Time to own up.
Here are the 4 phrases that are doing you more harm than good when navigating relationships (most commonly heard in conflict). Take a minute, digest them, and really consider how you’re going about taking care of the people around you. Not to mention, these simple phrases could possibly mean the difference between you opening or closing the door for them to take care of you in return.
1. “You Never”
For starters, they actually probably have before – you just aren’t feeling that way in the moment because whatever is causing you pain is also clouding your judgement (& consequently, that history).
This does not mean that your pain related to however the other person is behaving isn’t legitimate. But when you say “You never,” you are basically taking away ANY credit that person could have possibly created in the history of y’all’s relationship.
Say someone has an extremely hard time apologizing within tough conversations/arguments. There WAS one time in the past, though, when they mustered up all of their courage, took a HUGE bite of humble pie, and delivered a genuine apology. It was hard, but a personal victory — a milestone. This memory is lodged in their mind as a time that was extremely difficult, but a growing point. They refer back to it in moments of conflict to remind themselves that 1. They can do it, and 2. They are capable of more growth in this area because they have put just one stake in the ground towards that direction. During a difficult conversation (yes, probably a fight), these two factors now come together to build inner confidence reminding them,
“I’m capable of reconnecting us and apologizing, and I do know how. I had the strength then; I have the strength now.”
When you say, “You never apologize”, you stab right at the smallest piece of reassurance the other person was holding onto to remind themselves that they can. Because their memory of apologizing is a very monumental one which meant so much to them, they officially enter defense mode out of pain. They fight to defend a very precious sacrifice they thought was so valuable, seen, and appreciated, but now feels like you deemed as meaning nothing.
Don’t label someone as the EXACT thing you don’t want them to embody.
In this instance it’s someone who never apologizes, but it could be anything. Instead of saying a definite, “You never,” try asking them for what you need:
“Us apologizing for where we have made mistakes would make me feel way more understood and taken care of when we are beginning to disconnect. It’s really important to me to feel like we are still fighting towards connecting with each other, not pulling away, and that reminds me.” But be willing to step up to the plate and meet them in that need.
2. “You Always“
This one feels extremely similar, and in some aspect it is, but there is a different approach here. If you are feeling like someone “always” does something, it is still probably just a feeling. Sure, it could maybe be true if you were really keeping an excel sheet to track their habits and you find the results to be a clear 100% of the time.
But the truth is, this phrase is still calling into existence a truth you are not wanting. So why say it?
Don’t say it. Instead, encourage the opposite and take ownership of what your need is that is causing you to talk about the subject in the first place.
You could be feeling like someone is always late (and maybe they are. I truly feel like 99% of us could work on this area of our lives). Try approaching the subject from what you are feeling you need. Instead of saying, “I hate that you are always late”, try saying, “It really communicates that we respect each other when we show up at the times we agree to. I definitely have had some times myself that plans changed last minute or I didn’t manage my time well and I needed to adjust. Could we just let each other know if the original time needs to be pushed back or we need to reschedule? That would help me so much and communicate a lot of care.”
This type of conversation is respecting BOTH people’s time and giving grace for life just not going as planned. It’s going to happen. But don’t put someone down for their weak spots (which you have too) before you even try presenting an opportunity for growth.
3. “You’re Making Me”
No they’re not. But I will definitely validate that it feels that way. Remember simple cause and effect we learned in high school? We are taught that if you backtrack from a certain result, there was something that CAUSED IT (think in terms of Newton’s first law of motion). Something put our emotions into motion.
Unknowingly, we take that knowledge and use it to peg our emotions on people.
Let me just say, sometimes people most ceeeertainly help the momentum of us experiencing a specific emotion, (Let. Me. Tell. You.) but that doesn’t mean they are responsible for us having that emotion — and that is a really hard pill to swallow.
When we experience our emotions, they are fully ours.
That’s not to say that someone couldn’t have done something that “highlighted” your feeling or brought that pre-existing emotion to the surface. This doesn’t put all of the “blame” on you or mean they have nothing to own up to in their behavior. However, it will save both people so much pain and time to realize that the emotions being felt are fully their own to work through.
Taking ownership doesn’t necessarily mean doing it alone.
It’s totally healthy to say, “When x happens, I have found that I begin to feel y (an emotion). I may need help navigating a better way we could handle this type of situation so we can find a connection in this instead of me feeling blocked by these barriers.” Or better yet, “I would love some help in navigating how I can sort out these emotions that are coming up because I want to connect with you through this. Can I talk about what I’m feeling?” Invite them in instead of placing blame.
4. “I Can’t Do This”
I’m going to say what I don’t even like telling myself: That’s your choice. Honestly. And I mean that in the nicest way possible because I’m basically a walking billboard for falling into this category. When situations get frustrating, I dive deep into thinking I just can’t handle them and I need to quit. That is not the truth of the matter, though, and it has the danger of coming off as a cop-out to the person receiving it. It basically sounds like, “I could do this if it wasn’t this hard but I really don’t want to and it isn’t worth it.” That’s not what you’re saying though, right? So be more powerful than that.
Maybe you just don’t have the clear mindset to discuss it at that moment.
Be honest about what is really happening instead of putting a blanket statement over the matter and saying you can’t. Instead, explain that you are feeling maybe overwhelmed by emotions or the significance of the conversation and you want to make sure you are participating with the care the topic deserves. Say that you need to step away for the moment and come back to the conversation at later time (make sure to give a specific designated time so the other person knows this isn’t an empty promise and the situation isn’t being swept under the rug).
You will both find so much more resolution in being able to continue the discussion with the proper mindset. Not to mention, the trust you will form from now knowing that you can believe one another to step away for a time and actually come back later is invaluable for the health of future conversations.
Remember that the goal should always, above all, even when it feels like you are both losing, always always always be CONNECTION. Ask yourself what you truly want to feel on the other side of this moment: