Do you ever notice how often people use the words 'always' or 'never'? Do you notice that when someone says it to you your first thought is, “That’s not true! "Yes I did!", or "No I haven't…..” When you hear those words they tend to bring out a defensive response, don’t they?
If you reflect on your own communications…can you remember using these words or words like them? Maybe you don’t actually say them…do you sometimes think it?
When I am in conversation with someone I use these words as a barometer for how important something is to them. Or in the case of my own wanting to say it to someone, I use it to notice just how upset I really am. It is touchstone of sorts. A reminder.
I find that doing this allows me to fall more deeply into empathy. I am able to access more compassion for the distress the person feels. I have more understanding of just how much the person is longing for whatever the need is causing their distress.
And, if it is me I hear the words from (even if they are only in my head), I find the self-compassion, and understanding of just how important (precious) something is to me.
SAY THIS, NOT THAT
Next time someone says to you, "You never blah, blah...!" (or even when they are talking about someone else, "My boss always blah, blah...) take a breath and consider NOT defending with correcting the actual facts (as you remember them).
Instead, consider responding to whoever said them to you, that you hear just how upset they really are. And that it is important to you. Maybe ask them to tell you more. Invite more information. Rather than react to the actual words they are saying and ratcheting up everyone's distress levels, bring more interest and connection to the interaction. See what happens?
Possibly at some point in the future (if the situation isn’t quite cleared up initially) you will make an inquiry and begin a dialog about what is actually true for them, given that [whatever they are talking about] the likelihood is that it is really isn’t 'always', or it really isn’t ‘never’.
And while you are dialoging, don’t forget to ask about what is really at the core of their upset…what are they making it mean? What is important to them? What is their need?