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Day 19. Getting Over “Just”, “Should”, “Sorry but…” & Other Language Habits

The words we use go a long way. Without them, there wouldn’t be so many people who focus on words over actions, haha! When it comes to asserting ourselves, so, for example, showing up, sharing ideas, or letting our position be known about a boundary issue, our words communicate, not just our intent, but also how we feel about us. What we often don’t realise is that sometimes our language undermines us. We communicate that we’re unsure of ourselves, that we are tipping our cap to the other party who we see as being more authoritative or “better” than us. It directly impacts how boundaried we are with ourselves but also how boundaried we end up being with others.

Do you have any of the following habits?

Victim language: “You’re making me feel…”

What happens next? They dispute it by querying or rejecting the ‘making’. When they refuse responsibility, not only do you experience more upset, but they’re likely still in the dark about the details (actions and impact).

Generalisation: “You never….”,” I’m always…”,” We always…”,” Why don’t you ever….”
What happens next? They find an example where they didn’t and you either argue about that, or you retreat into submission.Justing it up: “I’m just wondering why you…”, “I know you’re a busy/important person but I just….”, “I just want to make sure that there are no hard feelings….”, “I’m just trying to get my point across”, “I’m just letting you know how I feel”, “I just want a chance to have my say” and one of the worst, “I’m just sayin’…”

Justing it up: What happens next? The person’s back goes up, or they feel superior because your language suggests that you’re inconveniencing them or that you feel awkward. Shady folk don’t make the connection between your awkwardness and, for example, their boundary-busting or a fear of confrontation. Instead, it’s read as a vulnerability to exploit. Some even think that you’re being awkward because you’re wrong. In response, you decide that you’ve been invalidated or feel misunderstood, possibly deciding that there’s no point in bothering to talk to this person.

 

Use of “just” also gives the impression that you’re apologetic. What kind of message is that when you’re trying to communicate your boundaries?

 

Speaking of which…

Over-Apologising: “I’m sorry that I have to say this to you….”, “Sorry to bother you…”, “Sorry, but…”, “Sorry if this is making you feel awkward….”
What happens next? You’re so busy apologising for breathing, for having to be a responsible adult and address an issue, for feelings and thoughts that you don’t even know that they’re having, that you inadvertently weaken your position. You might think you’re being ‘kind’, but the message is lost, and the person thinks that you are apologising or that you are accepting responsibility for what they did. A hell of a lot of people on the receiving end of this think that you’re trying to make them feel bad, which actually on some level is very possible.

It’s like, I know that you did me wrong but what I’m going to do is apologise so that you feel bad and own up to what you’ve done.

Flannel: Adding lots of fluffy detail and/or excuses, along with some of the habits above.
What happens next? You continue losing ground, and it just does not sound anything like disclosure of what the actual issue is. There’s no clarity, and they have a field day with it, either latching on to something you’ve said that confuses the issue or not coming away from that conversation thinking, He/she just let me know what it was I did, how it affected them, what they would like to happen next. They certainly won’t feel as if they’ve been giving information that says, “This is your stuff. Own it”.

Stalling: Why would you talk about the weather and basically everything but the kitchen sink just so you can try to line things up to broach a tricky subject? You can stall by going around the houses in the conversation, but you might also delay by going to talk about it and then bailing and talking about something else. This can go on for ages, as in days, weeks or even months.
What happens next? You stall and stall and then feel so guilty that you don’t feel as if you can bring it up. If you were stalling about answering a request where you wanted to say no, stalling causes you to feel obliged to say yes to avoid conflict and criticism. You now feel so bad that you don’t feel justified in saying what an issue is or saying no. And of course they still don’t know your line….

Shoulding: “You should…”, “I should…”, “I should have known…”, “You should have known…”, “You shouldn’t have…”. Somewhere, you are crossing a boundary. Whose is it, yours or theirs?
What happens next? Rigid thinking affects your attitude and behaviour, and their back goes up, likely focusing on what they’re inferring as you telling them what to do or scolding them. A skilled boundary buster will decide to turn things around and distract from the actual issue. Others will think you’re imposing your view or even yourself upon them, so the message gets lost.

Dodging: You’re in a situation where someone is asking something inappropriate. Maybe it’s invasive, perhaps it’s rude, whatever– you don’t want to answer. You keep trying to dodge it instead of saying, “I don’t want to discuss it”, possibly because you’re afraid of looking “rude” which is an irrational concern when your boundaries are being crossed.
What happens next? You keep dodging, which causes you to feel even more invaded with your back against the wall. The more you avoid, the more you are not protecting your emotional and mental boundaries and are likely experiencing a level of physical distress.

 

The TAKEAWAY

  • Replace victim language with I statements. “I feel.” Don’t put words in their mouth, and don’t describe how they’re feeling.
  • Avoid generalisations because even if you don’t specifically mention a past incident, the generalisation will be taken as a blanket accusation and ‘bringing up old sh-t’, with both undermining your position.
  • Catch the ‘just’. It won’t disappear overnight but start with noticing it in texts and emails where it can come across particularly badly. Remove the just out of these messages.
  • “Just” is 9 out of 10 times going to be a form of passive-aggression and self-deprecation, so it’s not worth it.
  • Don’t use disclaimer statements like, “I know you’re busy/important” or “I know I’m no expert…” These result in winding people up, putting you down and basically, not being boundaried.
  • Stop apologising for breathing and stop apologising when you don’t need to. If you’ve done something wrong, knock yourself out but stop apologising for having to speak and stop taking responsibility for other people’s feelings and behaviour.
  • “I’m sorry” often represents irrational guilt in these situations and it’s then used as a device to end conversations that you need to continue because they would open you up to being more boundaried.
  • People know a faux-apology when they hear it. Some people might even feel manipulated, but a lot of the time, it’s just regarded as insincere, which is not your intention.
  • Flannel isn’t necessary. Whatever happened to, “Yes, you’re right” (obviously, when they are) or “I don’t agree”.
  • Cut to the chase. No, you don’t need to fire verbal bullets, but stalling rarely ends well and can even cause the other party to feel blindsided and confused, and in some instances, manipulated.
  • Stop should-ing yourself and others.
  • Obviously if you’re under police questioning, you might feel obliged to answer questions then but take it as a given in general that when people try to discuss something that you don’t want to (because it’s inappropriate, not the right time, etc., not because you’re stonewalling), it’s a question, an opening to a potential conversation, not a court order.

    JOURNALING: Which habits were you aware that you were engaging in and which were a surprise? Write about the feelings that came up and if memories of previous discussions and conflicts come up, see if you can explore those and put a fresh perspective on them.

    TASK: It’s always easier to start with normal day-to-day living. You don’t need to wait until you have a boundary situation. Next time you’re writing a text or email where you need to ask for or state something, check to see if you’re using any of these habits and omit. Next time you’re in a situation where you need to suggest something, be mindful of the way you’re putting you across so that you can feel good about you in the interaction. Notice how you feel when you try this out, not just how you feel immediately after but also how you feel later that day and the following day – even if you feel panicky initially, say positive things to reassure you. Try, “I am safe, I am secure”.

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