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

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

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.

The Trick to Successful Relationships

The Trick to Successful Relationships

About a decade ago my husband, Jimmy, said, “Sweetheart, I want to fulfill my dream of owning land in the country.”

What’s missing in that declaration?

My dreams.

This urban girl, aka moi, loves the city, especially “my” city – Dallas. It isn’t the most scenic or unique locale; but, I’ve got roots here. It’s in the center of the U.S. – it’s easy to travel anywhere. We’ve got good museums, good hospitals, and good food. And, yes, good shopping.

How did I end up on a ranch?

All relationships – whether professional or personal – survive or die on your ability to solve issues.

When it came to buying a ranch – we had an issue. He wanted it and I did not. In fact, I thought he was joking. We knew nothing about owning a ranch – he’s a dentist and I run a communication consulting company!

Problem solving suggestions

  • Listen: First I had to really listen to what he wanted.
  • Rearrange: Then I had to rearrange my perception of the situation. Did I want to live with an unhappy partner? NO. I then realized this was going to happen and I was either going to be part of the process, or NOT part of the process.
  • Compromise: Finally we compromised. We found a place close enough to Dallas so that we could be weekend ranchers, still having our urban lives.
  • Luck: And then there’s just plain luck. (Or maybe it’s a function of timing.) We found Star Ranch, a place we could afford from someone desperate to sell.

So, how did I end up with longhorns? I don’t even own a dog or cat.

The seller left them! We inherited 5 longhorns. We signed the papers, returned the next weekend to spend our first night at the ranch and NOW THERE WERE SIX COWS. We had our first baby! I didn’t even know the cow was female, let alone pregnant.

Here’s your trivia for the day: all longhorns have, well, long horns. Males and females.

The best thing I never wanted

Jimmy was so happy that I was happy that he said, “You name our longhorn baby.” “Ok,” I replied, “Her name is Bliss”. He responded, “You can’t name a cow Bliss. Maybe ‘Chuck’ or ‘Filet’ but not ‘Bliss'”. But we did. And, that’s exactly what this place has become: a place of bliss. A respite to clear your head and add more to your soul.

We solved our issue by listening, shifting, and compromising.

And that makes me lucky, grateful, and blissed out.

#communication #speakforyourself #karencortellreisman #StarRanch

The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter

I interrupt our regularly scheduled blogging to suggest stopping for a moment.

You communicate 24/7. You’re presiding, presenting, selling at break-neck speed – to your team, prospects and customers.

Take a breath and ask, “What am I saying, or not saying, to those that are nearest and dearest to my heart?

The bench at the park speaks up

On a walk the other day I notice some freshly cut flowers in a vase attached to a bench. The bench itself has this inscription, “In Precious Memory of Marion Jackson.”

I peer into the vase with flowers and see this note, “Happy 67th anniversary – To Marion from J.L.”

Self-disclosure – I cry at weddings. I don’t even know J.L. or his beloved Marion, of blessed memory, and this note on this bench brings tears to my eyes.

Reminders to you

  • Stop the treadmill now and then.
  • Tell the people you love, admire and bring goodness into your life that you do love, admire and value them.
  • Use Marion and J.L. as models.

The rest of the bench inscription says, “Filled with Tender Mercies and Loving Kindness.”

I’m happy to stop, write on a more personal level, and honor some tender mercies and loving kindness amidst the craziness of life as we know it.

#communication #mattersoftheheart #speakforyourself #karencortellreisman

Recipe for Life, Death and Ground Fish Balls

Recipe for Life, Death and Ground Fish Balls


You should never make Gefilte Fish Balls. Why?

  1. Your kitchen will reek of fish for one week.
  2. YOU will smell like fish for one week.
  3. Your refrigerator will smell like fish for two weeks.

But – you should read this recipe.

My mom was a great cook. The problem – she never taught me how to cook.

Every year for the Jewish High Holy Day, Rosh Hashanah, she made her famous Gefilte Fish Balls.

One time I watched her prepare the gefilte fish, against her wishes. She remarked, “I don’t know how I do it. I just put it all together. I can’t give you a real recipe”.

See approximate recipe below.


Karen with her mom, Anne Cortell

We always had a large crowd for Rosh Hashanah. After I got married, I inherited the tradition and celebrated this High Holy Day – the Jewish New Year, at my home. At one time we peaked at around 45 people for this seated dinner.

Mom continued to prepare the fish. On the day of the dinner she would arrive at my door around 11am, honking her horn. I’d come outside and help bring in the 5 Pyrex dishes filled with The Balls. We would sit down, have 2 Balls with fresh Challah (bread) – a true highlight moment. I always knew the best part about this celebration was not the holiday itself, but the entire day spent with my Mom. We would set the tables, prepare other dishes, and spend time together.

I vividly recall her final Rosh Hashanah. According to her notes she brought the fish over on 9 – 8 – 1991, two days before her 72nd birthday. She honked her horn as usual. She came in saying, “Karrrren (she had a thick German accent), I’m tired. I don’t know why. I shouldn’t be, but I am.”

We had our typical fantastic day together and a lovely evening celebration. She had a fatal heart attack two months later.


I took her copious log, called the grocery store and attempted to make The Balls. At the last minute Aunt Lorraine offered to help. (Aunt Lorraine was not a ‘real’ Aunt – she was my Mom’s best friend and a second mother to me. We just called everyone ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’.)

Out of deep sadness evolved a new rich tradition. From that year forward, Aunt Lorraine and I would prepare The Balls together. She had her pot – covering two burners, I had mine – covering the other two burners. She tossed in the same amount of seasoning as I.

She’d say, “Karen, I don’t get it! We’ve done the exact same thing, but your Balls always taste better”, which was an accurate assessment, in my humble opinion.

“Aunt Lorraine, I know why. My mom is watching over my pot, not yours.”

Then Aunt Lorraine was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and just ahead of Rosh Hashanah she said, “Karen, I won’t be able to prepare the gefilte fish this year.”

Her comment spoke volumes. What she was really saying was, “I can’t make the gefilte fish because I’m dying.”

Lessons learned about life, death & ground fish balls

With my mom – It wasn’t about The Balls. It was about love, tradition, celebration, Mom and daughter time and family.

With Aunt Lorraine – It wasn’t about The Balls. It was about finding ways to move from deep grief to new and special connections that help fill the void.

So – don’t make these Balls (refer back to top).

But – do make time for those you love. Create wonderful traditions in and out of the kitchen. Those memories – past, present, and future are delicious.


Order from grocery store:

  • 2 pints of finely ground onions

Tell the guy to take fish (amounts below) and filet and grind twice. Once it’s ground you should have around 6 pounds of ground fish. Make sure he saves the carcass and skin – and gives to you. Have them remove the eyes. (!)

  • 3 pounds of buffalo fish
  • 4 pounds of trout
  • 4 pounds of whitefish
  • 8 carrots
  • A head of celery – use the very tops and the bottom part (I think my mom was saving the best part for other uses)
  • 5 sticks of margarine
  • 2 large onions, sliced (that’s in addition to the pre-ordered ground onions)
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 14 ounces matzo meal
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Lawry salt
  • Garlic salt
  • Sugar
  • 2 packs of clear Knox gelatin
  • Couple of jars of red horseradish


Place rinsed skeletons, heads, tails in bottom of a huge silver deep rectangular pan that will cover two of your burners on your stove. Throw away fish skin.

Add water – totally cover – about ¾ high in the huge pan.

Add all the carrots, celery tops and bottoms, margarine, sliced up onions.


  • 7 seconds of salt – from large container using the spout
  • 7 seconds of garlic salt – with open bottle (no sifter)
  • 5 seconds of Lawry salt – with open bottle (no sifter)
  • 4 seconds of sugar out of sack
  • 3.5 seconds of pepper

Put on two burners on stove on high till it boils. Cover and turn to simmer for around 40 minutes to an hour. While this is simmering, prepare the fish.

Put all the ground fish in large bowl.


  • 2 pounds finely ground onion
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 14 ounces of matzo meal
  • 6 seconds of salt (for all seasonings use same lid as above)
  • 4.5 seconds of pepper
  • 5 seconds of Lawry salt
  • 5 seconds of garlic salt
  • 4 seconds of sugar


  • Knead together and add 4 more cups of water
  • Use an ice cream scooper – dip scooper into heated fish broth first – then scoop out 2 balls. Fill the scooper but make it flat at the top (unlike today’s huge portion of ice cream at an ice cream shop, but that’s another story).
  • Put the scoops of fish into the fish broth. Turn the broth up to boil again and wait for the balls to float, turn white, and not fall apart. These are your test balls! IF they fall apart, add more matzo meal to your ground fish concoction.
  • Take your test balls out when ready and place in freezer. Go grab some coffee and wait a bit. Take the balls out of the freezer and eat them. Should taste delicious.
  • Now get busy: Put 16 balls at a time into the fish broth. Bring to a boil. Should take about 10 min. to cook – or until they’re really floating.

All of this: 114 balls (not an approximation) *

  • Once done: take all the fish bones and other ingredients out of the fish broth. Add in the gelatin. Save the cooked carrots and dice.
  • Pour the fish broth over the fish balls in their various glass Pyrex dishes. Cover and refrigerate.


  • 2 balls/plate
  • One little slice of cooked carrot on top of each ball.
    • NOTE: Looks like The Balls are graduating from college.
  • Place some of the jelled fish broth on each plate.
  • Add a dab of horseradish to the side.

* While Mom never had a written recipe, she kept a log of each time she prepared Gefilte Fish. Her detailed notes of jelling challenges, added matzo meal, how many balls went where date back to the 1950’s. Some notes from her batch on 9-18-1990: “It made a total of 114 balls and I think it turned out very good! Indeed EXCELLENT AND IT JELLED!! Total of 81 balls for Karen, she had 11 left for her. 12 for Nina, 8 for me, 4 for Reisman, 8 for Kallenberg, 2 each for Ruth and Norma”.

Karen Cortell Reisman book on sellingKaren Cortell Reisman Speech BookAuthor: Karen Cortell Reisman is president of Speak For Yourself® and the author of 2 books on how to communicate. She lives in Dallas, Texas and has finally learned how to cook.

© 2021 Karen Cortell Reisman, All rights reserved

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A Simple Strategy that will Benefit You & Your Business

A Simple Strategy that will Benefit You & Your Business

Have you ever thanked your business mentors? If you got off your treadmill of life and gave it some thought, who would be the people you’d thank for your professional success? And, how would this gratitude exercise benefit you?

Last week a longtime recipient of our electronic newsletter unsubscribed. Curt was one of my early business mentors. Rather than just hit my delete button, I reached out to him with this email:


My assistant lets me know about our newsletter list and it looks like you’ve decided to move on and not receive our updates anymore.

I understand!

BUT, before I let you go…. I want you to know how much I appreciate you and what role you have played in my career.

All the way back to a short presentation for Sales and Marketing Executives’ Dallas monthly meeting in a small conference room attached to a hotel room (do you realize how odd that was?!!! I was unsure about entering that space!). But I did walk in and gave that speech to your Board of Directors.

After this presentation, you asked to sit next to me at the dinner (in a REAL hotel ball room space!) and my relationship with you and ELK* began.

Those eight years of doing training and seminars for ELK in Dallas and around the country were wonderful in terms of relationships gained, experience achieved, and career growth.

Again, many thanks. I hope all is well with you and yours.


One day later I got this response from Curt:

Hello Karen,

I wanted you to know that I asked to unsubscribe from your newsletter as my husband, Curt, passed on June 14th of last year.

Good luck,

A.C. Barker

I asked you up front, “How would this gratitude exercise benefit you?

According to Psychology Today, there are seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude. Amy Morin writes,

  1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
  2. Gratitude improves physical health.
  3. Gratitude improves psychological health.
  4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
  5. Grateful people sleep better.
  6. Gratitude improves self-esteem.
  7. Gratitude increases mental strength.

I also asked you to ponder for a few minutes about who has helped you along the way. Who are you grateful for?

Please tell them, before it’s too late.

*Note: ELK was a national roofing manufacturer. If you are suffering from insomnia call me and I’ll talk to you ALL about laminated asphalt shingles.

To discuss a customized Speak For Yourself® workshop or retreat on how to communicate formally, informally, and electronically – email Info@SpeakForYourself.com.

© SpeakForYourself.com/blog             © Photo by Karen Cortell Reisman 

Karen Cortell Reisman, M.S., author of 3 books and President of Speak For Yourself®, works with decision makers on how to speak with gravitas. It’s all in how you speak for yourself. Karen also speaks about her cousin, Albert Einstein, in a message about hope, resilience and brassieres.

#PresentationSkills #BusinessCommunication #OrganizationalCommunication

Karen Cortell Reisman, MS, Executive Communication Author & Speaker

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