Have you ever said anything you regret out of pain or disappointment? Ever call someone a name you wish you could take back? Ever made statements that are totally out of character with who you are? Remember, words are important. They create worlds and they also destroy them. They galvanize people together, and polarize them to be totally apart. There are seven things I notice people saying too flippantly that can destroy a world, or at least harm and hurt. Here are the seven best things we say we never mean:
- We never mean it when we say, “I’m done.” What we’re saying is, “I’m done for this moment. I’m frustrated. It’s like standing too close to a door. You can’t open it. You need to back away and get some emotional space to gather your thoughts and to reclaim your composure. But too often, “I’m done” is interpreted as “I quit.” And if you do that very often, people will call your bluff.
- We never mean it when we say, “Whatever.” Whatever is simply a sign of frustration; the communication isn’t going the way you hoped it would; you don’t know exactly how to respond to a line of thinking. It’s the inability to have an interior thought process that allows you to deal with the complex issue at hand. “Whatever” is a statement of frustration but oftentimes people interpret it as a statement of arrogance and anger.
- We never mean it when we say, “I can’t take this anymore.” This is an example of self-talk. It’s talking ourselves into having a cold or being sick or out of a relationship. You can take it. You can take a whole lot more than you think you can. It’s not over until you quit, sit down, and die.
- We never mean it when we say, “You get on my nerves.” This is a verbal deflection technique. Literally, no one can get on your nerves; stand on your nerves. What we’re really saying is, “This conversation is irritating, this relationship is in misalignment.” And what we need to do is talk, plainly, calmly, and deliberately about how we can fix the broken places.
- We never mean it when we say, “It doesn’t bother me.” The person who says this to you is telling you it bothers them. You need to probe a little deeper. They are wounded and hurt. And what you do in this moment will determine whether or not the relationship will become healthy or even continue at all.
- We never mean it when we say, “I hate you.” Literally what we’re saying is the opposite. “I love you, but I need to hear you say you love me back.”
- We never mean it when we say, “I don’t care.” If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t be in the relationship or having the conversation. Usually when people say they don’t care, it’s evidence that they don’t feel heard or listened to.
These are the seven things I hear people say and know they don’t mean. I have even said some of them and I didn’t mean them and was saying something else. Be careful what you say. Listen to understand, speak to gain agreement, and act to earn trust.