As a therapist, I hear a lot of dysfunctional phrases when people communicate. Many people say things without thinking about the message they’re sending.

Some will blurt phrases out of their mouths without any awareness of how it could be taken. This leads to arguments and miscommunication which can end in pain in your relationships.

Here are 4 dysfunctional phrases to stop saying in your relationship:

“Yeah, but…”

One phrase I hear a lot is “Yeah, but…” When someone uses this phrase, they are initially agreeing with what the other person is saying, and then immediately retracting it. This phrase minimizes and dismisses what the other person is trying to communicate.

This is commonly the initial statement someone makes when they become defensive. The underlying message that is sent is “I am not wrong and I am not going to listen to what you are saying.”

“I was just….”

“I was just…” is another defensive statement that people use to explain their intent. It’s common for a person to say this when someone gets upset with them, or when they feel misunderstood.

The problem with using this phrase is that it keeps the person who did something wrong from owning what they did. Even if you make a mistake on accident, it’s still healthy to own what you did and then apologize genuinely.

This defensive statement sends the message of “You shouldn’t be upset. Stop feeling how you feel and get over it because I didn’t mean to.”

“I’m done…”

Dysfunctional phrases like this can be very confusing, especially if people are arguing. When someone says “I’m done…” it could mean many different things. You are done with this argument? You are “over it”? Or worst of all, I’m done with this relationship?

Saying a phrase like this in the midst of conflict can be very damaging and create more intense reactivity as it can cause someone to think you are walking out or ending the relationship. It’s like gas on a fire.

Absolute language like “Always, Never, every time, all the time, everyone, no one…”

These absolute phrases can cause communication to shut down pretty quickly. Saying “always” about something will cause a person to think about a time when it hasn’t “always” been an issue.

For example: “You never do the dishes or help around here.” This phrase might get a response like ” Really then what about Sunday when I vacuumed the living room?”

Using absolutes will derail the conversation into more conflict down another rabbit trail and prevent you from being heard and understood. Try using more accurate language about a specific time frame or circumstance instead of an absolute.


As you can imagine saying these dysfunctional phrases can instantly break down the flow of communication and build emotional walls. Try to eliminate them from your communication library and stick with healthier options!