Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The 3 Most Offensive Words in the English Language

The conversation Bubba and I had this morning while I drove him to work reminded me of something my sister Traci had told me about the 3 most offensive words in the English language. She had taken some sort of psychology or sociology course in college, and her professor had actually spoken these 3 offensive words in class. And I was reminded of them today, because (although Bubba may protest), we were both in kind of foul, early-morning, grumpy moods, and because we used all 3 words in our communication with each other this morning.

So... prepare yourselves. Because I'm about to recreate part or our morning dialogue, and it might get a little offensive.

Here goes:

Bubba: (As I am slow to notice the traffic signal's change from red to green) "You ALWAYS are slow to go after the light changes."

Bubba: (As I ask him for his American Express card, because I reported all of my cards lost or stolen last week, because my wallet(which was quickly recovered), could not be located for a few minutes) "You SHOULD have waited before you cancelled all of your cards."

Me: (Feeling unjustly harassed) "You NEVER say anything nice to me!"

What? You're surprised? You were expecting some profanity? You see, the 3 most offensive words, according to my sister's college professor at least, aren't what you would expect at all. If you really want to excite your partner, if you really want to escalate an argument, skip the swears. "Always," "never," and "should" will do the trick.

Think about it. How many times have you almost flown off the handle because your partner says you should lose some weight? Or you should keep the house clean. Or you never clear the dinner table. Or you're always late picking him up from work. Or you should be making more money. Or you never help with the baby. Or, etc, etc, etc.

I think the reason these words are so offensive is because they immediately cause the receiver to go on the defensive. None of us is consistent enough to always or never do something. So I always am slow to go after the light turns green? What about that time last month that I ran the red light? Huh? How bout it? That time I was so fast, I didn't even wait for the signal to turn.

And none of us like to be told what we should do. Because, the truth is, we probably know it without being told.

The funny thing is, these 3 words don't have to be the most offensive. They could just as easily be used to mollify a situation, to show concern and sympathy. When's the last time you told your husband that he's been working so hard, he should just kick up his feet and watch t.v? When's the last time you heard that you always look beautiful? Or were told that you have never cooked a bad meal?

I'm still not completely sold on the idea that should, never, and always are the most offensive words around. But, it might be useful to avoid using these words as much as you might avoid using other profane words. Because if used too often in the wrong way, they might be more damaging than those other 4 letter words.


janel said...

It is not a lie, or an exaggeration (and hopefully not offensive to you) for me to say that I always enjoy reading your blog entries. And I wish I could tell you, non-offensively, that you should post more often. Then I would never be sad. [Was that profane?]
And, by the way, do you drive Bubba to work every day? Wow.

Marci said...

Amen. I have found that those 3 words can and have caused some of the bigger arguments around our place, and so I try to avoid them. I am with Janel and I think you should post more often, because you always have such great thing to say!

Stacy & Mike said...

I am going to take your post into my sessions with me. That is what I teach, preach, exhort, encourage in marriage counseling is "Staying away from judgemental words" Whenever we use "absolutes" we are making a judgement on the other person and like you said it's usually a negative judgement. Most aruments could be avoided if those words were not used which takes removing the judgement in the first place. Love Love Love this post.

kim and morgan said...

Amen sister! I love reading your blog Kim. I think I am going to use those 3 words more, so I can WIN my battles. :) How are you and Bubba doing? I can't believe your little guy is 2 already. CRAZY! Are you still in Indiana? Are you in Chicago now? One of these days, we will have to get together, when we are in the same state. Have you talked to Emmers? I haven't in a very long time. LOVE your pictures and fun posts. Love you!

sarahbclark! said...

true dat, chica. nothing gets me more riled up than my husband saying i always, never, or should do something.
and i agree with those who have posted before me, you SHOULD blog more often. :)

Brooke said...

Once again, you've had insights about human nature beyond what I am capable of, and I'm in awe.

Kimberlee said...

Wow. I think I elevate myself too often for not using profanity. I just use subtle substitutes instead to hurt the one I love the most--without realizing it.