> Spirituality > Personal Growth

Getting Rid of Toxic Phrases in the Home

June 7, 2016 | by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

15 negative phrases to avoid and their hopeful alternatives.

After hearing myself speaking in a grumpy, negative way to my husband and kids one too many times, I embarked on an experiment to replace some of my negative, pessimistic phrases with positive, optimistic ones. I also encouraged my kids to do the same.

The results have been dramatic. We don’t always remember to stay away from toxic phrases, but trying to express ourselves in more positive terms has without a doubt created a happier environment.

Here are 15 toxic phrases we’re trying to avoid and their hopeful alternatives.

Replace “I can’t believe you did that!” with “I wonder if I have the whole story.” Judaism mandates that we try to give other people the benefit of the doubt; there might be more to the story than we realize.

Replace “I’m a failure” with “I messed up on that one, but I’ll try to use what I learned to do better next time.” This helps us keep in mind that nobody succeeds without making lots of mistakes.

Replace “I hate…” with “That’s not really my taste.” This leaves open the possibility of change – and doesn’t condemn others who might not share one’s opinions.

Replace “That person is a jerk (or other negative expression)!” with “I’m not happy they did that.” This helps remind us that people are imperfect, and that someone might do a better job next time.

Replace “I need…” with “I would like…” This helps us keep our needs and wants in perspective.

Replace “I can’t…” with “I’ll try.” This acknowledges the fact that we’re all growing, and what appears difficult today might well be in our grasp tomorrow.

Replace “I have to…” with “I would like to.” This helps you to realize that you are making a choice, and helps you to focus on taking pleasure in your choices.

Replace “I can never forgive them…” with “I will try to forgive them.” If someone has hurt us, instead of stewing we can approach them and explain why we are upset. By hoping for a reconciliation, we give ourselves a positive goal to work towards.

Replace “Things aren’t going my way” with “So many things are going my way.” Focusing on what we are grateful for improves our mood, results in better health, and gives us the energy we need to start tackling problems.

Replace “Did you hear about…?” with silence. Gossiping about others drags us down and injects negativity into our lives. Try avoiding speaking about others.

Replace “What if I fail?” with “I’ll never succeed if I never try.” This reminds us that trying is the only way to ever accomplish our goals, and that failure is an integral part of success.

Replace “$%^&%$#!” with “That really upset me.” Swearing sends the message that we’re out of control. If you’re very upset, try identifying exactly what it is that’s upset you and what you can do about it, instead.

Replace “I am so stressed!” with “I have lots of things to do – let me list them.” Studies show that writing down our goals and tasks helps de-stress us and enables us to better prioritize and tackle tasks.

Replace “That’s stupid!” with “I see it differently.” Dismissing opinions we don’t see eye to eye with limits us by cutting off the possibility for debate and growth. Try acknowledging that other people have valid opinions.

Replace “It’s too hard!” with “Can you help me?” Reaching out to others can help us overcome our problems and limitations, and also makes us feel less alone and more confident.


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