Remarks made with the best of intentions may unwittingly cause hurt feelings. Here are common words to avoid…

TRY. Telling a sick friend, “I’ll try to visit tomorrow,” is an excuse to dodge a commitment — and even though you didn’t exactly promise, your friend still will feel let down if you don’t follow through. Better: “Will.” Accept responsibility (“I will come at lunchtime”), then do it. Or be straightforward in declining and make a counterproposal — “I will not have time to visit tomorrow. I will come on Friday instead, if that’s convenient for you.”

BUT. This word voids a compliment. “That’s a chic haircut, but you must spend all day fussing with it,” actually is an insult. Better: “And.” This reminds you to keep comments positive, as in, “…and the bangs accent your pretty eyes.”

DON’T. This word backfires, reinforcing undesirable behavior by conjuring up a mental image of it. That’s why telling your husband in bed, “Don’t touch me so hard,” actually may make it more likely that he’ll unintentionally continue to be heavy-handed. Better: “Do.” Helping him to visualize the desirable behavior (“Please do touch me lightly here, because it feels great”) increases the odds that he’ll remember — which will be gratifying to you both.

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