Certain words are ‘priming’ words; they prime other people to become defensive and angry. For my wife and I the words ‘always’ or ‘never’ have the unintentional power to turn a disagreement into a full-blown argument. A typical example is, “you never care about me,” which is clearly untrue as we care about each other immensely. A more emotionally congruent statement would be, “I don’t feel cared for in this moment.”
Priming words can spin people off the axis of the real issue. We all have them, and often they’re attached to core fears or beliefs. I, for instance, am a deeply considerate person so saying ‘I never care’ can injure my values. And as much as it’s my job to un-prime or deactivate these words in me, I feel we, as a species, could become more mindful of how we speak.
Which leads me to my point – “I told you so!” If there was one phrase I could remove from our language, it would be this. Not only is it severely priming, but it’s also reactive; we only say “I told you so” after the fact. It’s single purpose, it seems, is to prove whoever is saying it right and make the other person feel bad at a time they need support.
Instead of being right, let’s be resourceful. “I told you so” primes a person into defence. This is wasted energy. Rather let’s use our words to prime a sense of restoration, upliftment, and renewed hope.