This topic is part I of a series on communication and relationships. These ideas apply to all relationships, parent and kids, partners, spouses, work colleagues, etc.

Always and never are powerful words. For that reason people often choose them to get their point across whether in an argument or in general conversation. Certainly it can get someone’s attention to say “You never …” or “You always ….”

That’s the point, right? To have your listener take notice of your words is the reason you are talking, right? However it can backfire. Your listener takes notice but doesn’t take in what you are saying. The listener may shut down when you most want him or her to hear your concern. Words such as always and never end up distracting the listener. The listener scans his or her experience to see if always or never is true in this case. At least one exception usually pops quickly to mind and then they stop listening. The conversation may be over or at least side tracked.

Try it. If I say you are always late or never help out, what do you do? Likely you thought of an exception and I’ve lost your attention perhaps when I’m most interested in having you consider my perspective.

Of course it isn’t possible to banish these words from your vocabulary. Experiment with using them less and see what happens. Especially consider leave them out of the conversation when the stakes are high and you are most interested in getting your point across.