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5 Phrases You Should Never Say to Your Partner, According to Therapists

by | Dec 11, 2023 | 2 comments

Warning! This list will help you navigate personal and professional relationships.

Adapted from a New York Times article written by Jancee Dunn she shares what phrases therapists are sick of hearing and what you can say instead.

#1 😬 phrase: “You always…”

#2 😬 phrase: “You never…”

Both of these phrases are generalizations. These terms veer into exaggerations that escalate defensiveness and decrease opportunities to problem solve. Plus you get into the past rather than focusing on the present. Bad move! Whether you’re having a frustrating dialog with your partner or you’re giving feedback to your VP of sales stick to the current issues. Say, “I’m noticing you’re doing (or not) doing x and it seems to cause y.”

#3 😬 phrase: “Yes, but …”

#4 😬 phrase: “I never said that.”

These two aggravating phrases are deflections. In a response to your partner or your EVP you deflect and/or disown what has been said. Your “yes” implies agreement followed by your “but” which means you’re doing a u-turn! Your added caveat negates the “yes” in a nano second. Try saying, “I hear you saying x” and go from there.

Rather than saying “I never said that” which plummets your conversation into argument territory, say “Give me some background about this issue.”

#5 😬 phrase:  “You’re overreacting.”

Jancee Dunn nails it when she writes that this is a dismissal statement.

Dr. Alexandra Solomon, a psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University and the author of “Love Every Day,” shares, “No one person is the actuary of emotional responses. One person does not get to determine which reactions are appropriate. This phrase bypasses accountability.” Try to acknowledge the other. Dr. Solomon’s suggestion, “Instead of judging say, “‘OK, I’m listening. Tell me more. Help me understand what you’re having a hard time with.’”

Again, a warning! During stressful times, which could be all the time, you may find yourself using these self-defeating phrases. I know I have.

Breathe. Smile. Print out this list.

Got other phrases that derail conversations? Share in comments.


  1. Val Cronin

    When I was a kid and I got in trouble, I would respond with “Yes, but…. this is why it’s not my fault”. Now I can see why that never worked.

    • Karen Cortell Reisman

      Ha! Well, Val, you are not alone in trying this method! We all do this.

      Thanks for your comment.

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