“Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use.”
— Wendell Johnson
In communication with ourselves and others what we intend to say gets lost in what we is actually hear when starting a sentence with “You always” or “You never”. Our brains subconsciously ignore everything that follows because we know the rest is an overstatement. Regardless of whether the information following is right or wrong has no bearing, it’s the simple way our minds work. We may say “You’re always late.” But what we mean is, “Your tardiness is having an effect on me.” Learning to say what you mean instead of expecting others to correctly interpret the hidden meaning will improve your communication. Be clear and be heard.
“Always” and “Never” statements are usually exaggerations. The words are dramatizations of facts and opinions. There are very few absolutes in this life. Rarely is something always or never the case. Words like Everything, Nothing, Always, Forever and Never are terminal words. There is no going back from them. There is no grey. Only black and white. They can rarely be proven or justified. As the self-contradicting adage says, “Always and never statements are always false and never true.”
We may find ourselves using these words in reference to ourselves or others often in an accusatory, argumentative or self-depreciating way. “You’re always late.” “I’ll never get it right.” Sentences that begin with these words are communication killers. Nothing shuts down discussion faster than those words. When a person uses terminal word statements, they are rarely interested in establishing objective truth. Likewise getting defensive and arguing your case only leads to continued miscommunication. Speak constructively, presently and without criticism to be heard.
And while were at it, stop “Should-ing” all over yourself! Who gets to decide what “should” be? What another choses for themselves is not necessarily what would be the best choice for you. And what someone else “should” do is not for you to decide. There isn’t a list of universal truths that applies to everything. We should do this, We should do that. There are people that do and people that don’t and yet the world still goes round. Should shouldn’t be considered. It’s a word just leaves us with guilt. Should is a mindset that takes away control and personal choice. Don’t let should be another tally mark on your personal list of failures or disappointment in your expectation of others.
Throughout this article the terminal words have been used in and out of context. To determine the range in which the use of these words “never” or “always” apply is completely subjective. It’s difficult to outline an exact guideline without infinite knowledge. Should you really, never use these words again? Most sentences and lines of thought convey the same message with and without the use of the terminal words. If you want to improve your communication never use these words! Boost your credibility, build trust and speak to be heard.