Thursday, March 21, 2013

Three Phrases That Will Change Your Life

Communicating with other people is always a challenge.

Which is why today I am going to present you with three phrases that have truly changed my life. I invite you to master your own non-ironic use of these expressions in hopes that you will find them equally useful.


My husband and I call this "the phrase that saved our marriage." Use this wonderful set of words whenever someone offers you any sort of unsolicited advice.

For example:

Has your husband recently proffered the idea that it might be more efficient to do a single load of laundry each day rather than trying to do seven at a time, thus ending up with piles of unfolded and wet clothing scattered about the laundry room?

At this point you have two options: you can hurl piles of damp drawers at him while threatening imminent bodily harm OR you can simply whip out your new favorite phrase.

"What a helpful suggestion!"

And don't stop there!

This beloved phrase is equally useful on the child who gives you detailed instructions about the alternate dinner they desire, the friend who insists that dropping white flour from your diet will "change everything," and the saleswoman who tells you that "high-waisted pants are hot right now."

"What a helpful suggestion!" 


Oh, the uses for this phrase are as endless as they are satisfying! My best friend taught me this one after it was suggested by the teacher of her highly expressive six-year-old daughter. 

As many of you know, spending a lot of time around small children puts you on the receiving end of a whole lot of emotionality.  There are lectures on the injustice of your refusal to serve ice cream for dinner, there are diatribes on the wrongness of the length of brother's turn with that truck, and there are screeds about how it cannot possibly be bedtime when it is so clearly instead time for the 96th airing of "Caillou Cooks".

Before I learned the wonders of this particular phrase, I'd often respond to such outbursts by providing lengthy explanations of the well-thought-through reasons behind my choices. Not surprisingly, these rationalizations had little effect on my offspring. So now, instead of engaging I simply use this trusty phrase.

"Thank you for letting me know how you feel."

The applications of this expression go well beyond children. It can be equally directed towards people who lecture you about your mistaken political convictions, strangers who scream at you for "being in their way" at the grocery store, and spouses who "just don't think they should be made to watch The Real Housewives and would really prefer to catch the basketball game."

"Thank you for letting me know how you feel."


My cousin Jack had a youth hockey coach who would respond with the same phrase whenever a player would confide in him about a personal problem. Kids would come to the guy and tell him about all sorts of issues -- difficulties at home, girlfriend problems, and general life angst -- and the coach would always fold his hands in front of him and intone sincerely,

"I hear you, and am concerned."

My husband has particularly fallen in love with this phrase. Like my cousin's coach before him, David can at times become flummoxed when confronted with emotional or "feelings-based" conversations. 

But now he has a go-to phrase of sensitivity to respond with.

"I hear you, and am concerned."

The important thing about this expression is not so much the words, which will likely come off as insincere if uttered verbatim, but in the sentence construction.  

The bones of the phrase are



Husband types, I urge you to embrace the simple genius of this. The ability to listen to a woman's feelings, recognize the source of the problem, and respond with empathy covers a VERY HIGH percentage of successful marital interactions. 

"I hear you, and am concerned."

This template can also be a total winner when dealing with children.

For example:

"I see how upset you are that your brother looked at you during dinner twice. Clearly, it really bothered you and I'm sorry to see that."



"What a helpful suggestion."

"Thank you for letting me know how you feel."

"I hear you, and am concerned."

Learn them. Use them. Expect results.