Life-Changing Advice From a 90's Woman's Magazine That I Can't Forget Even When I Try

A yellow square with the word "never" in large type
Photo by Chris Piascik on / CC BY-NC-ND

When I was a kid, I used to read my mom's lady magazines. (Wait, that makes it sound like they were scandalous. What I mean is, my mom got Ladies' Home Journal. It has "lady" in the title. Officially a lady magazine.)

One of my favourite columns was called "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" Couples would write in with their issues, each taking a turn to describe the problem from their perspective, and then a therapist would give their take. (Yes, as a child I was reading couple's therapy columns for fun. Feel free to decide what that means about me.)

In it, I got an incredible piece of advice that has stuck with me to this day: strike the words "always" and "never" from your vocabulary when talking about another person. 

People are just not that consistent. We may do something a LOT or hardly EVER, but the fact is that there are always exceptions. And so guess what happens when you claim an absolute? Those exceptions pop into the other person's head and BAM! The opposition intensifies. 

Basically, our nevers and alwayses will always (ha!) be wrong, and not only that, they'll put the other person on the defensive and drive the argument towards nitpicking statistics of activity instead of whatever it's actually about.

As an extension of this, I am automatically suspicious of anyone who claims "always" or "never" status for themselves.

I am sharing this with you because:

a) I think it's good advice that everyone could use, and

b) I truly don't understand how some snippets of information we receive stick with us so effectively while others are completely lost. Why did this thing I read ONCE as a young little thing get ingrained so deep in my psyche it actually permanently changed the way I argue and yet it takes ongoing effort to remember to look at my to-do list?

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