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Arguing a Lot? Say What You Mean

The idea of "saying what you mean" sounds simple enough, but for many of us it's incredibly challenging. This comes up in many contexts, but, in my clinical experience, where I tend to see it most is in arguments. "It's over" and "I hate you" are strong words to say in an arguments, and sometimes people find themselves saying them when they are not literally true. The problem with uttering these sentences when they are not literally true is that the words themselves start to become devalued. When we say "it's over" enough times to the same person, it becomes harder to actually end the relationship, because we are not believed (like the Boy Who Cried Wolf). It also destabilizes the relationship even when that is not necessarily the intention, because the person on the receiving end of that sentence is left wondering if just maybe this time it's true. This extends to insults. In the context of a relationship, if you find yourself saying "You're a jerk" with any frequency, I would ask, "Do you really mean that?" Is the person at whom you are directing that insult actually a jerk? If not, then maybe we can find other language to express anger, such as, "What you did really hurt me." (If, however, you really believe the person to be a jerk, you might want to take a good, hard look at why you're still in the relationship.) In contrast, when we use language to express exactly what we mean, we increase our credibility with others. If, instead of saying, "it's over" or "I hate you" or lobbing insults, we express what others' actions made us feel, then this has a tendency to strengthen our relationships, even when those feelings are distressing. And, when we actually want the relationship to end and say that "it's over," the words carry weight, and we are empowered to actually follow through. Do you struggle with how to communicate exactly what you're feeling? Consider contacting me at or 484-222-6436. I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation.

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