What a Cutie!
DON’T SAY THIS: “I just wanted to tell you that you’re really cute. Do you want to go out?”
MISTAKE: Too direct and intimidating.
REALITY CHECK: Research shows that people of both genders appreciate attention if delivered tactfully and respectfully. A courteous invitation, even from a stranger, can be a delight. You don’t have to be super-suave; a heartfelt request complete with stutters and false starts can signal sincerity. You might get a smile and a polite refusal, but you most probably won’t get a fight or a flight.
SAY THIS: “Excuse me if I’m interrupting, but I’ve noticed you here a few times and I wonder if you’ve got time to have coffee with me.”
I’d Like to Know More
DON’T (EITHER OF YOU) SAY THIS: “I’m going on a wine-tasting trip next Saturday and Sunday—would you like to go along?” (Sending the wrong message: I move quickly.)
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM? Such an invitation commits you to two whole days alone with someone you don’t really know. The trip might easily degenerate into disaster. Even if you and Zeke turn out to be compatible, overloading your emotional circuits with so many demands so early on might jeopardize what could have been a solid relationship—if it had proceeded slowly. Allow things to develop at a gentle pace.
SAY THIS: “Maybe we could get together and take a walk sometime. How does that sound?” (Sending the right message: I know how to pace things.)
Want to Spend the Night?
DON’T SAY THIS: “You’re really hot. I want to spend the night with you!” (Sending the wrong message: Sex is more important than getting to know you.)
MISTAKE: Too fast and too pushy. Slow down! Newly dating couples (especially men) often feel pressure to move quickly into sex before either person knows much about the other. They’re running on hormones and a host of other neurochemicals that get them excited.
SAY THIS: “I find you very attractive . . . and I really look forward to a deeper relationship.” (Sending the right message: I’m interested in more than just sex.)
He’s Late and Doesn’t Care
DON’T SAY THIS (SARCASTICALLY): “Well, I’m glad you finally made it.” (Sending the wrong message: I’ll make your pay for your mistake.)
BAN SARCASM: Making a sarcastic statement or asking a sarcastic question sets a verbal trap in which everyone gets caught. Sarcasm is one of the worst forms of communication because it can create confusion (Did you really mean what you said?) and makes you appear to have a harsh and critical personality. Above all, sarcasm sounds like punishment, a highly toxic form of blame.
SAY THIS: “It bothers me that you were late and barely mentioned it.” (Sending the right message: I deal with issues maturely.)
I’m Being Totally Ignored
DON’T SAY THIS: “If you’re going to ignore me, I’m leaving!” while glaring and then dramatically heading for the door. (Sending the wrong message: I’m super-sensitive and impulsive.)
MISTAKE: You are overreacting. Now the focus will be on your sudden outraged departure rather than on your boyfriend’s discourtesy.
SAY THIS: Reach out your hand and introduce yourself with a smile. “Hi, my name is . . .” (Sending the right message: I know how to handle a social blunder.)
Don’t Tell Me What to Do!
DON’T SAY THIS: “Who are you to talk? You let your friends walk all over you!” (Sending the wrong message: I will punish anyone who makes me feel bad.)
MISTAKE: Even though his advice implies that you’re less than competent, blurting out an accusation will only lead to retaliation.
SAY THIS: “I know you get upset when my friend acts like this, but I want to deal with it in my own way.” (Sending the right message: I appreciate your concern but I want to handle the situation.)
And It’s Your Fault!
DON’T SAY THIS: “Dammit, Myra, can’t you even keep milk in the house?” (Sending the wrong message: She’s so incompetent she can’t even buy groceries.)
MISTAKE: Too strong a reaction. Running out of a food item does not mean you have the right to act like a grumpy adolescent or launch into blame.
SAY THIS: “Darn, there’s no milk (sigh). I’ll pick some up on my way home.” (Sending the right message: I’m a resourceful adult.)
How About Some Appreciation?
DON’T SAY THIS (ANGRILY): “So cleaning up this pigsty of a kitchen isn’t enough for you?” (Sending the wrong message: I need appreciation and I’ll punish you if I don’t get it.)
MISTAKE: While it’s natural to want to feel appreciated, this approach won’t help.
SAY THIS (CALMLY): “Honey, before you ask me about dinner, please notice what I’ve been doing.” (Sending the right message: I know what I need and I’m capable of asking for it directly.)
I Know What You’re Thinking
DON’T SAY THIS: “It’s obvious you don’t care about spending time with my family.” (Sending the wrong message: You’re selfish and unloving.)
MISTAKE: Assigning your boyfriend uncaring, selfish motives forces him to defend himself before you even discuss the issue. You’re setting up the conversation for failure in advance. Having to defend himself against accusations—which may well be untrue—is a daunting task he might consider hopeless.
SAY THIS: “I really want you to come with me. Think about it and we’ll talk later.” (Sending the right message: I can be patient while you consider my request.)
How Many Times Have I Told You . . . ?
DON’T SAY THIS (ANGRILY): “I’ve told you a thousand times to put your stuff away before using the computer! Why are you so stubborn [lazy, difficult, stupid]?” (Sending the wrong message: I must use anger to control your behavior because you’re too difficult.)
IT WON’T HELP: Criticizing loudly and angrily may provoke a Reactive Response. Or your son might bury his reaction until it surfaces later in lack of cooperation. Neither helps establish discipline.
SAY THIS (CALMLY): “Justin, please follow the rules about putting your stuff away before doing anything else.” (Sending the right message: He has to follow the rules.)
He Started It!
DON’T SAY THIS (YELLING): “Your fighting all the time is driving me crazy!” (Sending the wrong message: I’m powerless to stop your fighting. Insanity is my punishment for being ineffectual.)
PRESERVING PARENTAL AUTHORITY: Don’t abandon your parental authority by acting out your frustration and anxiety. You’re the adult and know more than your children about how to live a successful life. Yelling to solve a problem between siblings obviously doesn’t work, because you’re joining the fray. The boys quickly learn that they need only get you worked up for your authority to disintegrate in a hail of ineffectual threats. It’s a lose-lose situation for all involved.
SAY THIS (PLACING YOURSELF BETWEEN THE FIGHTING BOYS): “I want you boys to separate and take turns telling me what happened . . . calmly.” (Sending the right message: I can guide your behavior without using anger.)