WordWatch: “Always/Never”

by Scott Noelle

Today, notice whenever you use the words always and never.

The power of these words is in their ability to finalize — to make something seem “written in stone” — and to establish a strong expectation. For example:

  • “He always throws a tantrum when we leave.”
  • “I never get enough sleep.”

Remember, you tend to get what you expect, so when you hear yourself say such things, rephrase them using softer words that leave open the possibility of improvement:

  • Sometimes he throws a tantrum when we leave. (Maybe this time he’ll be fine.)”
  • “It’s been a long time since I got enough sleep. (Perhaps I can sneak in a catnap today.)”

But do use always/never with uplifting thoughts:

  • “She always finds her way.”
  • “I never make mistakes that I can’t recover from.”

Originally published on 2006-11-29
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