change your words and change your relationship

There’s a Change Coming

readingMy wife Maude and I have a very loving and peaceful relationship, and we’ve looked hard at what we do to create this.

One of the things is how we use language.

Most conflict in a relationship arises not from what is being said, but from the language that is used to say it.

Change your words, and you can radically improve your relationship.


Start With …

  • Firstly, say “I” not “you”.
  • Say “I’m cold”, rather than “You pulled the blanket off me.”

Here you are saying how you feel, and not what the other person did.

By phrasing it this way, two things are different.

Firstly, it is no longer an accusation of the other person’s behavior, so it does not provoke a defensive response (“No I didn’t”) or a counter-attack (“Well, so do you.”) It is merely a statement of how the world is for you.

Secondly, a statement in the first person is an act of intimacy, a revealing of your self.

By speaking about your own feelings, you offer closeness and invite empathy.


In Stark Contrast

In contrast, talking about the other person’s behavior is often taken as a criticism.

That’s painful, and more than likely will elicit a hardening of their position in the form of a justification for the action, or an attack on you in return.

When trying to resolve conflict together, almost any statement about the past tends to feel accusatory.

Try changing your language to only use the present tense.

When coupled with “you”, the past can become the speech of blame.

For instance, instead of “You left your dishes in the sink again”, you might say “I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with all the housework.”

Likewise with the future; speaking of what should be is often a way of avoiding what is actually happening in the present.


You Can Use ‘We”

This is not to say that there is no place for speaking of the past or the future; certainly we need to plan, and we need to use our past experience to guide our current behavior, but it is rarely constructive in the context of a personal conflict.

When it is necessary to digress from the present, using “we” is often a constructive approach.

Make sure you use these language suggestions in the spirit in which they are meant, rather than literally. It is easy to stumble, and imply criticism or blame within the guidelines suggested.

They exist as an aid to help you develop a different way of relating.


Ideally both partners will commit to this style of communicating, but even if only practiced by you, significant change can take place, as the negative feedback cycle of an argument is interrupted.

By continuing to communicate, yet not treating the conversation as adversarial, you can single-handedly encourage a different style of communication.

This technique works with all relationships, not just for couples.

It also works with family, friends and work colleagues.

You will find that when both parties relate in this way, conflicts become discussions.

By offering up your feelings as well as your point of view, each person gains insight into and empathy for the other. This allows for an exploration of possibilities that eventually leads to a solution that works for both people – a mutual solution where no compromise has taken place.


Speak Your Mind, With Your Opinion

Nice to see you made it to the end of the post. Here’s what you can do next:

  • What language do you use?
  • Where can you improve?
  • Click one of the Share buttons – your friends can then enjoy this article too.

And thanks for reading too – Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Change Your Words – Change Your Relationship 1

Phil and Maude finally put their experiences into a book and ebook, available at the Phil and Maude Website

Phil – who has written posts on GeekandJock.

8 thoughts on “Change Your Words – Change Your Relationship”
  1. I like this advice because it is simple and doable, – and probably hugely effective. It could really become a habit that could help one breeze through life with far less conflict and drama! :)

    Thank you Maude and Phil!!

  2. Yes, I think it always make sense and maybe common sense to fully understand your wife or husband. It takes time as well as effort too, don’t you think?
    Would you think because it takes this extra energy that a lot of couples tend to think it’s too much effort?

    1. Hi Charles, great to hear from you. Phil and I have discovered an amazing paradox: the more you practice non-combative relating, the more you communicate by sharing your own personal feelings rather than accusing or commenting on the other person’s behavior, the more you celebrate the difference between you and another person rather than wanting them to ‘be you’ in choices and thoughts; the more you realize there is no work, certainly no hard work, in relating in peace. There is only joy and the exciting adventure of getting to truly know another!

  3. Yeah… Girls love to hear “We” instead of I, Me, You.. Changing words will make your girlfriend like you even more.. I have done these things and my girlfriend love me more than anything else! :)

  4. Hi Phil and Maudie, :-)

    Yes! The words we use make SUCH a huge difference to the way our communication is perceived! Nice article with some great tips, and as you say, not just relevant to intimate relationships, but to how we communicate with anyone.


    1. Yes, we can give all relationships that feeling of intimacy that comes from not feeling protected or defended. We can all learn to communicate with each other peacefully and help spread peace one relationship at a time!
      Let’s all learn to celebrate the differences between us, while learning the truth of our commonality.

  5. BRAVO BRAVA you 2!!!
    I have always felt that the use of succinct words is paramount to relationships even the one we have with ourselves. As the word choices I make to even describe or think or perceive about a circumstance, situation or event to myself shades my response or actions! Peace is interdependent on my word choice framing!

    1. Yay Sidoine! I love the fact that you are applying the use of language to yourself as well. Indeed, peace within relationships has a lot to do with what words you use to frame your communication.

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