#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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#179 Learn Sign Language

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.


Learn sign language

When I was in high school, I played the part of Annie Sullivan in our school play production of The Miracle Worker. She was the woman who taught Helen Keller as a child, how to communicate with the world. As a result of that experience, I learned the sign language alphabet and at that time, became rather proficient at spelling out words. Since I was the only one in my environment who had the skill – it didn’t do me much good. At least until my sisters learned it and then – we had fun discussing things secretly even in a crowded n those skills.

I didn’t have much motivation to broaden my knowledge until I was babysitting him one evening. He kept trying to get out of bed and even though he was trying to signal something to me, I was being quite stern. He wasn’t old enough to write things down and I was tired. Eventually, his persistence wore me down and I indicated that he could get up and do whatever it was he wanted so badly. The poor kid ran as fast as he could into the bathroom and I felt like a rotten Aunt. It was motivation.

Eventually I was in a position to learn American Sign Language (ASL)- the most common type of ‘signing’ in the Deaf community. I was known to be theatrical and so it was a good fit because a lot of the communication is via inference of facial expressions and body movement. By then, my nephew was much older and although I didn’t see him often, it was nice to be able to ‘converse’ and I could comprehend most of what he was conveying to me. Over time and without practice, my ‘signing’ became majorly rusty and barely discernible.

Sign language isn’t just for deaf people. There are lots of occasions where interpreters are needed as the American Disabilities Act requires public and certain private organizations to provide assistance so that the hearing impaired can receive the same information that hearing individuals have access to. How many times have you found yourself in a situation where you couldn’t (or shouldn’t) speak but needed to send a message across the room? I know many of us use texting for this purpose! People who know sign language enjoy an alternative mode of transporting messages.

ASL is widely becoming accepted as a ‘second language’ in the public education space. It is an option now in many foreign language departments across the USA. Some organizations offer classes and many of the people who act as interpreters in churches and synagogues also teach small groups locally. Generally, it’s easy to find an inexpensive and convenient forum to learn.

Earlier this year one of the suggestions I made was to both learn something new and to take a class. This suggestion encompasses both! I hope you’ll consider the overall benefits of creating new neural pathways, setting and reaching a goal, as well as having a little fun as you look for a class and make the decision to …

Learn sign language.


I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

#238 Say “I’m Sorry”

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.


Say “I’m sorry”

This is a suggestion that, for many of us, is a no-brainer. Some of us know when we have committed an infraction in word or deed and we readily and easily apologize. Others, perhaps not so much. Why is it important to say “I’m sorry”?


An apology demonstrates respect and empathy for the person who was ‘wronged’. If we’ve hurt someone – unintentionally or otherwise – it’s important to acknowledge that our actions may have generated unwanted or unpleasant feelings in the person who felt injured. It indicates that we have an awareness of how our behavior impacted another and that we are willing to take responsibility for our behavior.

Accept Responsibility

Perhaps the most important element is that of taking responsibility; of owning the impact our actions have had. An apology only has an impact when the offensive behavior isn’t repeated. As the famous saying goes… “the first time is a mistake, the second is a choice.” When we own our part in an infraction, pay attention to how it came about, and repent – making a promise not to repeat the offense – it becomes forgivable.

Mean it.

Being sincere is the second most important element in an apology; expressed without anger or blame. When we accompany it with a desire to repair the damage, with humility, and compassion for the feelings of all involved, the regret is more easily accepted.

Watch your Language

An apology that includes the word “but” is null and void before it really ever gets started. “I’m sorry but…” becomes meaningless because most of us will only remember the words that came after. If we use any language that implies blame, defense will rise in the receiver and they’ll be unable to register the apology. If there is a problem to resolve, work on it after responsibility for hurt has been demonstrated and amends have begun.

Think carefully about someone in your life that may still be hurting from your action or lack thereof… consider taking a few minutes to construct an apology and then…

Say “I’m sorry”.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.