There are practical ways to make life better. And since I am now at the age where I write Post-its to remind myself of everything from my cellphone number (I don't call myself, so I forget it) to my preferences in lipstick ("Never purchase anything called 'Coral'" is an actual Post-it in my purse), I have written them out.
Phrases from the first list, I've discovered, can be easily rehearsed until they not only sound sincere and natural but also are sincere and natural.
Phrases from the second list can be removed from one's arsenal by biting one's tongue, thinking before speaking and reminding oneself that nobody ever says, "I simply adore a narcissistic boor" with a straight face.
Say these words more often:
•How can I help?
•Here, let me do that for you.
•Thank you. I'm grateful and I want to make sure you know it.
•Tell that wonderful story about ...
•I've given it some real thought and I owe you an apology.
•I've given it some real thought and I accept your apology.
•This one's on me. You can get it next time.
•We might not agree about this but I'm glad we can discuss it. A) Maybe we should move on to another subject; we seem to be getting stuck here and it'd be great to talk about other topics. (This is especially useful during election years or family gatherings.) Or B) We're never going to agree about this, so until we can approach it differently, let's not just keep rehearsing the same arguments that frustrate both of us out of respect for our (choose one) friendship/marriage/cellmates.
•Count on it.
•I got myself some coffee (tea, pizza, job equity) and I thought you might like some, too.
•C'mon, there's plenty of room.
•You're welcome. It was my pleasure.
•Congratulations! Hooray! Wowza!
Perhaps even more crucial, here are the words we should all say less often:
•That's not my problem.
•It's not my job.
•What does that have to do with me?
•Way too complicated.
•If I had her (choose one) connections/money/looks/luck, I could've done it, too, and done it better. (Notice how the words "talent," "intelligence" and "diligence" aren't on the list?)
•There wasn't enough time so I didn't finish.
•You know I'm always late.
•Um, what were you just talking about?
•Oh, please, not again.
•You're kidding, right?
•Give me a break.
•That's not fair.
Words matter. Language matter. What we say to ourselves and what we say to others makes a difference. Change the habit of your litany, change the rehearsed phrases in your heart, mind and conversation, and you can change your life for the better.