There are thousands of things that trigger our anger: aggressive drivers, rude coworkers, disrespectful children, lying politicians, high taxes, unfairness, and favoritism just to name a few. A critical statement or offensive comment can raise our ire to which we may respond with indignation. Did you know that there are also three potentially toxic words that when used incorrectly can put anyone on the defensive? Those words are what I refer to as the A~N~Y Words: Always, Never, and You.

In the case of the first two, always and never are exaggerations. Each denotes an absolute with no room for flexibility or exception.

Synonymous with always are the words forever, at all times, constantly, continually, permanently. If something is permanent that clearly indicates there is no hope for change. Should the situation be unfavorable, such as a divorce, diagnosis of a terminal illness or loss of a friendship, one may experience feelings of anxiety, despair, hopelessness or helplessness. Each of these supports the response of anger. In conversation, we may accuse someone of always being late, always thinking of themselves first or always flying off the handle when things don't go their way. In this regard we fail to acknowledge the moments when the individual's actions are favorable: the times when they took into consideration what was important to the other party and conceded to the needs of the other, or the moments when they took a step back and kept quiet even though they were unhappy about a situation. Those who feel unjustly attacked will go on the defensive to protect themselves from their perceived enemy. We all seek to be given credit for the things we do that are virtuous and most people will be more willing to listen to negative comments about themselves when they also feel valued and respected.

Never is defined by such phrases as by no means, not at all, in no way. In each case we have a common denominator, the word no which indicates impossible or hopeless. "It's never going to happen" leaves one feeling disillusioned about a bleak future. Using the word never to describe a person's behavior, attitude, or talents can be disheartening and offensive. "You'll never learn!" "You never help out when your family needs you." "I'll never love you again." In each case, the individual feels under attack, criticized, or hurt. This is a recipe for anger on every level. Not being given credit for the exceptions to each scenario also leaves one feeling devalued and hurt which again equates to anger.

You is the third toxic word. "You should have done a better job." "You think you're better than everyone else." "I knew I couldn't trust you." Imagine one pointing their finger at you in an accusatory manner. Again, the individual feels under attack as each you word is followed by a perceived criticism.

In any type of conversation or conflict resolution situation it is imperative to create an environment whereby the other party feels safe and valued. In this regard, there is one exception to using the A~N~Y words: they are powerful tools for alliance when used in conjunction with a compliment. "I can always count on you to keep me up to date on important issues." "You never quit something you've started." "You are the most thoughtful person I know." It is not the individual word that proves toxic but rather the context in which it is used. Therefore be prudent in your phrasing that your words will unify rather than divide.

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Author's Bio: 

Janet Pfeiffer, international inspirational speaker and award-winning author has appeared on CNN, Lifetime, ABC News, The 700 Club, NBC News, Fox News, The Harvest Show, Celebration, TruTV and many others. She’s been a guest on over 100 top radio shows (including Fox News Radio), is a contributor to Ebru Today TV and hosts her own radio show, Anger 911, on and Between You and God (
Janet's spoken at the United Nations, Notre Dame University, was a keynote speaker for the YWCA National Week Without Violence Campaign, and is a past board member for the World Addiction Foundation.
She's a former columnist for the Daily Record and contributing writer to Woman’s World Magazine, Living Solo, Prime Woman Magazine, and N.J. Family. Her name has appeared in print more than 100 million times, including The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Alaska Business Monthly and more than 50 other publications.
A consultant to corporations including AT&T, U.S. Army, U.S. Postal Service, and Hoffman-LaRoche, Janet is N.J. State certified in domestic violence, an instructor at a battered women's shelter, and founder of The Antidote to Anger Group. She specializes in healing anger and conflict and creating inner peace and writes a weekly blog and bi-monthly newsletter.
Janet has authored 8 books, including the highly acclaimed The Secret Side of Anger (endorsed by NY Times bestselling author, Dr. Bernie Siegel).
Read what Marci Shimoff, New York Times bestselling author, says of Janet's latest book, The Great Truth; Shattering Life's Most Insidious Lies That Sabotage Your Happiness Along With the Revelation of Life's Sole Purpose:
"Janet dispels the lies and misconceptions many people have lived by and outlines a practical path to an extraordinary life beyond suffering. Written with honesty, clarity, sincerity, and humor, this book serves as a wonderful guide for anyone seeking a more enriching and fulfilling life.”
Dr. Bernie Siegel says, "All books of wisdom are meant to be read more than once. The Great Truth is one such book."