Three Phrases to Avoid During an Argument

Words are so powerful: they have the power to uplift us and to destroy us. To create a healthy and fulfilling relationship, proactive and ambitious couples like you will want to be very intentional (and even impeccable) with their words... especially during an argument.

Read on to learn about:

  • why it’s so important to choose your words carefully;

  • phrases and words to avoid; and,

  • phrases and words to use instead.

Choose your words carefully

If you aren’t careful with your words and phrases, you may make your partner feel threatened or defensive.

This really damages the sense of connection in the relationship… if not in the short-term, then definitely down the road!

Why?

Because when you feel threatened, it may actually trigger your fight/flight/freeze response, which is the opposite of what’s needed to feel safe and loved.

In other words, when you feel threatened, your basic sense of security is in jeopardy so you may end up fighting back, withdrawing, or closing up entirely. Each of these are totally natural, appropriate, and adaptive responses from the perspective of survival and self-protection.

Therefore, from the perspective of being in a healthy relationship, it’s important to prioritize kindness, so that we are not triggering our partner’s sympathetic system.

Beginning with our language.

What words and phrases to avoid, and what to say instead

From the beginning of our relationship, we wanted to minimize the potential of hurting each other and damaging our sense of connection. So, we set up some ground rules for the language we use during arguments, fights, and heated discussions.

Here are the top words and phrases that we’ve tried to remove from our vocabulary over the years and what we say instead.

1. Insulting or belittling criticism like “You’re a *****!”

“You’re such an [idiot, &#%-hole, etc]”; “You’re so [stupid, dumb, etc.]”; “Shut up”...

These words may create a climate of fear, which is the opposite frequency of love, compassion, and safety. Honestly, just make an agreement not to say stuff like that…

We do everything in our willpower not to go there, even when we’re super upset.

Instead, we use statements like: “I feel [feelings]… when you/we [behaviour]... because that means I [effect]. Can we talk about it?”. It’s a classic, but if you’re insulting your partner, you’re clearly feeling something. Why not name it, then walk through that feeling together?

It works. Lindsey used it while we were arguing about this blog post. It wasn’t pretty, but it was respectful and helpful. ;)

2. Accusatory phrasing like “You always…” or “You never…”

“You always put yourself first!”; “You never listen!”; “You’re always on your phone/playing games!”

The problem with these terms is that they assault a person’s character or essence. It’s a label and it may erode your sense of respect for each other. It may also create a self-fulfilling prophecy!

To train yourself out of this habit, ask yourself if this is actually an accurate statement before you say it to your partner. Is it really “always” and “never”? Do you have all-knowing senses? Likely not. And if you do, please reach out. ;)

Instead, contextualize your complaint by referring to the specific situation that is concerning you in the moment: “This morning, when you did [behaviour], it made me feel [feeling] because I [effect]. Could we talk about it?”.

Your partner should feel a lot less defensive and the conversation should be a lot more productive if you speak in specifics rather than generalizations.

David allllwayyys used “always” and “never” at the beginning of the relationship! ;)

3. Dismissive responses: I don’t care.../ Whatever…/Nothing.../Forget about it…./Relax.../Why is this even a thing?/ Just get over it…/ Why are you making such a big deal out of this? / Again?!

Responding in this way is more often than not disrespectful and closes the door to communication, problem solving, and connection.

It can make your partner feel like you don’t care about them or your relationship. To your partner, it may feel dismissive... even if you’re not trying to be.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or too annoyed to have a kind conversation, you could say: “I’m going to need a quick break from the conversation to gather my thoughts and process my emotions so I can be at my best. Can we take a quick break?”

If you’re feeling like you just don’t get why this is even an issue, you could say: “You sound upset and I want to really hear you out. Could we go back to the beginning because I think I missed something.”

Each of these “words and phrases to avoid” may not seem serious when they slip out in the moment, but if they’re not received in a spirit of kindness, they chip away at the sense of connection in a relationship.

We’ll be the first to acknowledge that it’s easier to use the disrespectful statements. They’re quick, dirty, and ego-gratifying! But they’re also destructive, so we make an effort to use more respectful phrasing.

Respectful phrasing is designed with kindness, accountability, and sustainability in mind.

Now what?

We’d love to hear your examples of scenarios and responses.

  • What patterns do you notice in your communication when s*** hits the fan in your relationship?

  • What phrases or words work for your relationship?

  • What phrases or words are causing pain in your relationship? What do you want to try instead?

Don’t know where to start?

Try out any of the wording above the next time you catch yourself. It may feel awkward at first. It’s still sometimes awkward for us! So we just laugh and continue on.

With a bit of practice, you’ll start to notice a difference in your relationship. If you want to add an extra layer, let your partner know what specific language or phrases you want to focus on so you can keep each other accountable.

If you’re looking for some bonus inspiration, sign up to receive our Free Relationship Guide on our home page because it contains our top 10 relationship mind-shifts that can help proactive couples elevate.

And, if you’re really ambitious, contact us to set up a free discovery call, so we can support you through your next steps.

Let us know your successes and insights on social media or in our private community Facebook group. Share the article if you love it!

Sending you love and light,

DL