The Bilingual Edge

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If You Speak Negativity, It's Time to Learn a 2nd Language

Deprecation, demands and dismissive responses breed depression.

Receiving the 3 D's can trigger depression.

Tone of voice and style of talking create a language of negativity or a language of positivity. If you speak negativitity, you are probably creating subtle feelings of depression in the people you interact with.  If you have someone in your life who speaks negativity to you, you are likely to find yourself tending toward depressed moods. The three d's of deprecating voice, demanding language, and dismissive listening are dangerous signs that you could end up seriously needing couples counseling for your relationship, and family therapy for your children.

Pretty much everyone wants to be treated respectfully, not deprecated with a "you're not ok" tone of or hostile voice.

Everyone wants to feel that what they have said is being heard and taken seriously, not feel dismissed.

Everyone wants also to feel like an independent person, not a disempowered puppet controlled by someone else.

These modes of speaking have a demoralizing impact on the person who is receiving them.  Beware of the 3-D's: Deprecating, Demanding, and Dismissive habits of speech.  If they are modes familiar to you, it may be time to learn a second language, a positive language that's filled with the 3 A's:  accepting instead of judging others, appreciation, and agreement.

1. Deprecating words or tone of voice

Even the slightest tone of sarcasm or irritation can cast a pall on the person toward whom the comments were directed.

____ To whom do you sometimes speak with a negative edge in your voice? Kids? Pets? Employees? Spouse? Friend? Teammates?

____ From whom have you received words accompanied by a "you dummy" or other negative tone of voice?

2. Demanding

Requests invite willingness in response. Demands invite resistance. No one, including children, generally wants to be told what to do.

There are exceptions to this rule. In an emergency, just about everyone is happy to have one person take charge and bark out orders. Most of our lives however, hopefully, we are living in non-emergency situations. Cooperation feels good; dictatorship is depressing. Even children are people, not puppets.

When we feel that we have to submit to someone or something more powerful, dominating over us, the by-product of the submission will generally be depression.

____ Whom do you sometimes tell to do things? via demands or requests?

____ When have you felt that someone was telling you what to do in a way that felt powering-over rather than collaborative?

3. Dismissive

"Yes, but...." dismisses the words just spoken. "That's not right because...." negates what was said.

When you issue "Yes, but..." or "No, that's not...." responses, you are using the equivalent of the backspace delete key on your computer. Beware, unless your intention is to induce depression in the person you are talking with.

When you experience that words you have just spoken are being deleted with Yes, but or No, it's not, you are facing the receiver end of dismissiveness. Odds are you will be tempted to counter-attack. You may get defensive in order to keep the information you were trying to share on the table. Or you may give up. Giving up on getting your words heard and taken seriously results in the disempowered feeling of depression.

____ Who sometimes tells you things that you are quick to dismiss or ignore?

____ Who tends to disagree with you or dismiss what you say instead of taking it seriously?

____ How do you then feel?

So what's the bottom line?

Pay attention to speech patterns. The 3'D's of deprecating, demanding, and dismissive forms of speech have depressogenic (depression-causing) consequences.

If you have been issuing any of the 3-D's in your speech patterns, you'd best clean up your act. If two are problematic, take serious action. If all three are present in your relationship, ACT NOW to make sure you change the habits super-asap.

Deprecating. Instead of allowing yourself to speak in deprecating tones, listen to the attitude that your voice conveys. Keep it respectful.

Demanding Instead of telling others what you want them to do, ask how they would feel about doing it. If it's a child or employee, issue a request, e.g., "Could you clear the table please?" To an equal, give them the option of saying no or explaining their concerns: "I would love help with ..... How would you feel about doing it?

Dismissing Instead of ignoring or rejecting what you hear because as you listened you were focused on what's wrong with what the person was saying, focus on what you agree with. Comment first on that. Then afterwards you can always add, "And at the same time..."

When you receive 3-D's

If you want to avoid a depressive collapse, respond first by being able to label to yourself that you just received something you don't want, one of the 3-D's. There is surprising power in just being able to label something.

Once you are aware that you've just been talked to with one of the 3-D's, you can choose to reject the negative message that's been sent your way. Instead of responding defensively or angrily, you can choose to exit the situation.  You can regard the negative message as a sign that the person talking with you has a problem rather than that there's something wrong with you.

For more on how to cease giving or getting what you don't want in talking with the key people in your life, please check out the resources below.


Susan Heitler, PhD, a Denver Clinical psychologist, is author of multiple publications including From Conflict to Resolution and The Power of Two.  A graduate of Harvard and NYU, Dr. Heitler's most recent project is a marriage skills website,