1) We need to talk. Yes, this is the title of my latest book. Even though this conversation starter is often necessary, most people don’t welcome those four words. They usually mean there is a problem, one that I probably don’t want to talk about. So yes, those words may be upsetting but are necessary to grow intimate relationships. Use the phrase. Don’t expect your partner to be delighted! The phrase is unavoidable if you want to work through issues.
2) I may have thrown it away. I don’t remember. Do you really not remember or were you trying to get rid of something you didn’t want in the house? Be honest. Throwing away that prized leather ball, the too-tight college shirt, the tired old coat might have been on purpose but you anticipated a negative reaction. Better to say, “I did throw it away. Are you upset?” And better yet, “I want to throw this away, is that OK?”
3) Would you ever marry if something happened to me, and who would that be? There is no good answer to this question so don’t ask it. If something happens to you, you aren’t around so don’t waste time speculating. And knowing who the person might marry will start you thinking in a direction you don’t want to go. Don’t ask, don’t tell on this one!
4) Are you gaining weight? It’s only OK to ask if you are losing weight, not gaining. Even if you think it, keep it to yourself. If the answer is YES, the person already feels bad and doesn’t need you to point it out. If the answer is NO, you’ve just told the person he/she looks fat!
5) Admit it, your mother doesn’t like me. Don’t admit it. This is a loaded statement. If your mother doesn’t like the person, encourage him/her to work on the relationship, but suggest this based on the person’s perception, not your opinion. It’s always best to stay out of the middle and encourage the person to work out his or her own relationship struggles. If you need to respond to this, ask what makes the person think that the mother doesn’t like him/her. Explore possible reasons and see what you can do about those reasons.