Relationships have their ups and downs, and discussions can quickly become arguments with as little as one wrong word spoken in a moment of frustration. Protect yourself and your partner from being hurt by keeping the one most hurtful word out of your conversations with each other.
The Words You Should Keep Out of Your Relationship
Communication is such an important part of any relationship, and that includes both the verbal and nonverbal parts of your interaction. Communication is essential for each partner to get their needs met and those could be physical needs, like the need for food or emotional needs, like the need for intimate physical touch.
Your communication with your partner is both about expressing how you feel, and getting what you need with the help of your other half. In the course of talking to each other, sometimes you can unintentionally let slip the one word that should be kept out of your relationship.
The power of words to hurt your relationship
University of Texas at Austin researchers studied the power of hurtful words in a relationship and found that it’s not necessarily the words themselves that hurt, but the perception of their intent that does the most damage.
The researchers say ‘Results indicated that people who judged something an individual said to them as intentionally hurtful felt the comment had more of a distancing effect on their relationship with the individual than did those who perceived the message as unintentionally hurtful. Furthermore, those who viewed the comment as intentionally hurtful tended to be less satisfied with the relationship they had with the person who hurt them and felt less close to the person than did those who saw it as unintentional.’
Lashing out at someone in frustration because you are having a bad day, are tired, or hungry is likely to be forgiven by your partner when they know you did not mean to hurt them. However, if your hurtful words are reflective of a pattern of negative behavior toward them, they will be more likely to perceive your words as intentionally hurtful.
Communication in your relationship is about more than words
Although your partner in your relationship might use one this hurtful word, it doesn’t mean much unless:
1) You take it in a negative way, or
2) Their actions, tone, body language, or other patterns of behavior also convey a negative meaning
There is a lot of information hidden in our body language and facial expressions. Was your partner smiling and using the humor of sarcasm when they said it to you? Did they say a word that you disliked, but then after you told them that you were hurt they changed and did not do it again?
Research published in Communication Quarterly looked at the hurtful messages in communication and the use of humor to soften those messages. They say ‘The results indicated that humorous messages used to convey hurtful information were seen as less intentionally hurtful, as expressing less intense feelings across most message topics, and as causing less hurt as compared to non’humorously phrased comments. These findings suggest that incorporating humor may make hurt-evoking statements more palatable to recipients than non’humorously phrased hurtful comments. ‘
Failing to speak can also be hurtful to your relationship
Keeping silent might be good, but only if you also know when it’s important to speak up. When your partner is getting close to pushing your boundaries and you feel that uncomfortable gut reaction, speak up and calmly express how you are feeling about their words or actions. For example, you might say, ‘I’m not comfortable with that. What are some other options?’
The ONE word you don’t want in your relationship
This is one word that you may say to yourself all the time, especially if you have a lot on your to do list, so you definitely want to keep it out of your relationship vocabulary. The controlling word that we need to keep out of our relationships is ‘should,‘ as in ‘You really should (or shouldn’t) do ___.’ Why is this one word most toxic to a healthy relationship? The same reason that it feels bad when you say it to yourself – it’s a negative way to influence someone’s behavior and it implies a judgment about what they are or are not doing right according to your opinion.
Rather than judging the behavior by saying that your partner really ‘should’ or ‘should not’ do something, focus on your own feelings and say ‘I feel like this is not really the best thing for you because ___.’ In this way, you have expressed your own feelings and given reasons for feeling the way that you do but you aren’t presuming to know what is best for your partner. Ultimately, it is their decision to act on your suggestion or not.