The One Thing To Say When You Hear “You ALWAYS..!”


You’ve done it, I’ve done it, and you’ve had someone do it to you. They used ALWAYS or NEVER. It’s never a good experience when someone uses those words as they point their finger at you in anger. It always feels unfair and wrong when they do. We think, they should never use those words like that! It always causes us to react.

I remember being on a walk with my wife one day and she did it. And I reacted. And while telling her how wrong she was for using the ALWAYS word, without realizing it, I used the NEVER word! We are all guilty!

So what do you do? What do you say when someone is angry, points their finger and says “You NEVER _________ !” (Fill in the blank.)

After hundreds of hours of helping couples through these very emotional moments, and examining this over and over in my own relationships, I can tell you there is only one thing to say:

Nothing! Say absolutely nothing – at least at first.

And you know why.

Everything inside of you – just like everything inside of me is already experiencing a nuclear reaction and it’s about to explode.

“That’s not true!!!”

And that is not going to help matters.

Instead try this.

Keep your mouth shut and think:

He or she is obviously feeling quite strongly about what they just said. They may or may not have really meant always or never. But that is beside the point, really. I have to let that word fly by as I focus instead on what they are trying to communicate – even if I think they are doing a poor job at it.

Why are they so mad or hurt?

Why are they using such strong language?

There has to be a reason, and I must make it my goal to find out. I have to get to the root of what they are saying so I can understand them.

THEN say something like:

“When you use the word ALWAYS or NEVER I find myself reacting inside, but I don’t want to do that. I want to understand instead why you said what you did. Help me understand why you sound so angry or hurt?”

Let’s think that through.

By saying the first part–about them using ALWAYS or NEVER–you are acknowledging that you heard what they said. That’s important. We all want to be heard.

You are also revealing something about yourself: you are reacting to their words internally but trying not to externally. That shows you are thinking and actually working at the conversation–and that’s a good thing. Furthermore, by saying you really want to understand them, you indicate that this person matters.

Having mutual regard for each other and what they have to say is critical to resolving the conflict.

I know some of you might say: “I already know they are mad. Why would I ask them to tell me more?”

It has to do with story.

The person is upset about something. Love dares to go where it is risky–even when it might get hurt. (Tweet this) If there is every any hope to resolve the conflict, you have to listen to each other’s stories without defensively reacting.

You must listen to understand.

Only then will you learn about each other as well as yourself. Only then will you gain the vantage point necessary to appreciate each other’s perspective leading to a resolve in your differences.

So the next time someone accuses you of an ALWAYS or NEVER, don’t say a word – at least at first. When you have your emotions under control, tell them you want to understand why they said that – you want to hear their story. Then remind yourself that your goal is to hear and appreciate their perspective.

So what advice would you give the rest of us when someone shouts at you:

“You ALWAYS…” ??

4 replies
  1. Lenny Buchanan
    Lenny Buchanan says:

    Thank you for the reminder how to handle these two words and the reminder of the power of the word. The words we use have the power to bring life or destroy it.


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