#15 Eliminate These Words from Your Vocabulary

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.


Eliminate These Words from Your Vocabulary

After years of working with couples in crisis and helping families communicate better, I’ve noticed a pattern of vernacular that is a part of most dysfunctional relationships. Our language matters; the words we use are important and paying close attention to your vocabulary will help you communicate better… improving your relationships and your overall sense of happiness. Here are the primary culprits:


I wrote a post early in this project about eliminating the ‘should’s in your life and that was mostly from the perspective of identifying the internal expectations that guide you. However, they often interfere in our relationships as well because we think others “should” do something. When we impose our own ‘should’s on others, we are really attempting to convey an expectation and it’s better expressed that way. Instead of “you should take a day off so we can spend time together” you might eliminate the word should and offer this: “It would be great if you could take a day off so we can spend time together”. Simply replacing the word ‘should’ with the word ‘could’ – makes all the difference.

“Right & Wrong”

“Do it the right way”, “If you did it right the first time”, “No, you’re wrong”… all of those phrases are likely to incite a defensive reaction almost as soon as they are spoken. When someone is defensive – they probably aren’t listening and so the conversation is broken at that point. When we understanding that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are generally spoken about perspective and values and that they are different for different people we can shift the way we speak about them. Try to adopt the ideology that there is no right or wrong – only differences.

Instead of the phrases above, try these: “I was thinking it could be done this way”, “Generally, I do it like this”, “I’d like it done this way”, “that’s an interesting perspective” or “I don’t see it that way”… notice that in each of these statements – you are using the “I” voice and describing YOUR thoughts/perspective. That’s the key.


In the English language, we often use the word ‘make’ to mean ‘cause’ which, is one of the secondary definitions and yet when it is in reference to feelings or behavior – it creates a problem of responsibility. Under the assumption that we – each of us as individuals – is personally responsible for our behavior – no one can force us to behave in a particular way. Literally speaking – WE are the cause of our behavior. Thinking anything different is deflecting responsibility and handing away our personal power. Each time we utter the phrase “you make me…” or “you made me…” etc., we are inferring that the responsibility for OUR behavior is on another. That is simply untrue. While it is true that we may react to another person’s behavior – it is still OUR choice on if, when, and how we react.

When we feel something and react – that happens inside our own being and is OUR responsibility. Try these phrases: “I get really angry when you….”, “I feel really disappointed when [that] happens”,  “I have a lot of feelings about…” – notice that in each case again, the communication is about what is happening for YOU. It’s always about communicating your experience from your perspective.

When we pay close attention to the language that we use in our communication, we can significantly reduce the amount of defensiveness that is generated by…

Eliminating these words from your vocabulary.


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2 thoughts on “#15 Eliminate These Words from Your Vocabulary

  1. I have noticed recently that I keep saying “I mean…” And the interesting thing is that I only seem to say it to my husband, I don’t think I say it when I’m talking to anyone else. It’s weird and I don’t know why I keep doing it but I’m really going to try to stop!

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