1. “You never…” or “You always…”
These all-or-nothing phrases are typically exaggerations and used to illustrate a point or elicit an emotional response. However, these statements are often inaccurate (e.g., “You never listen to me!”) and can set your partner up to become defensive. As a result, they’ll likely miss the true message of what you are trying to say and will instead focus on proving you wrong, leading to a circular conversation or argument that goes nowhere.
2. “You’re acting just like your mother.”
This move dismisses whatever issue is on the table and goes straight for character assassination. The strategy here: If you’re losing the argument, kill your opponent. Yes, you may well act like your mother, but that’s not the point.
3. “I’ll talk to you when you can be rational.”
This is hardly a rational statement. It’s meant to inflict emotional injury rather than ask for a timeout. When arguments get heated, a timeout to let the cortisol and adrenaline settle (for about 20 minutes) is a good idea. Identify the chemical cause: “We’re getting too elevated – I know I am. It’s that damn cortisol and adrenaline! Let’s take 20 minutes so we can talk respectfully like we want and deserve.”
4. “We’re done! I’m out of here!”
Words do matter. Avoid saying things you’ll regret later. Threatening abandonment is probably the most hurtful thing you can say or do to your partner, especially if you really don’t mean it. It’s one thing to want to take a breather, get some space and cool down. It’s another to basically say, “I don’t love you anymore and am leaving.” The sting of those trust-destroying words hurts to the core and you can never take them back.