Experts Say These Magic Words Will Change Your Life

Small language tweaks may help you lose weight, beat stress, and strengthen your marriage. Use these tips to teach yourself a health-boosting vocabulary.

By Lauren Gelman from original
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    “I Don’t”

    Saying this instead of “I can’t” may make all the difference when you’re trying to give up an unhealthy habit, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. Authors found that people who were instructed to say “I don’t” in the face of temptation (“I don’t eat ice cream for dessert”) had more autonomy, self-control, and positive behavior changes compared to people who said “I can’t” (as in “I can’t eat ice cream for dessert”).

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    “Some”

    “Nothing’s going right! Everything is out of control!” Sound familiar? When you get stressed, it’s easy to slip into an all-or-nothing mentality. But that can just drag you down, Tamar Chansky, PhD, author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety, told Woman’s Day magazine. A simple solution: Use the word some. In other words, “Some things are going right, some things aren’t.” Suddenly the glass is looking half-full.

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    “I’m Sorry”

    Apologizing doesn’t come easy to many of us, and in some cases, copping to blame or fault can downright awkward. But experts told Psychology Today that the specific words you use to apologize are less important to the person you’ve upset than the act itself. In other words, if you’re not exactly sure what to say, a simple heartfelt ‘I’m sorry’ can go a long way. (But make it genuine: Not surprisingly, research shows that insincere apologies can be worse than none at all).

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    “We”

    It may sound smug, but couples who used more collective pronouns, such as “we,” “our,” and “us” had more positive interactions and showed fewer signs of stress during fights than those who used more individual ones, such as “I,” “me,” and “you,” according to a University of California, Berkeley study of 154 middle-aged and older couples. "The use of 'we' language is a natural outgrowth of a sense of partnership, of being on the same team, and confidence in being able to face problems together," study co-author Benjamin Seider said in a press release.

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    “Thank You”

    Only one-third of people accept a compliment smoothly, found Binghamton University research reported by Psychology Today. Does this scenario sound familiar? She says: “I love that dress.” You say: “Oh this? I’ve had it for years.” Or, “Thanks—I wish it weren’t so snug though.” Or, “You think? I’m not crazy about the color.” We tend to qualify and clarify, often demeaning ourselves in the process. A better way to respond: Look the person in the eye and simply say, “Thank you.”

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    “No”

    You’re not bad for saying no because of too little time, money, or interest. “Saying yes when you need to say no causes burnout,” says author Duke Robinson told RealSimple.com. “You do yourself and the person making the request a disservice by saying yes all of the time.” If you’re asked to run the bake sale at your child’s school again, the magazine suggests you reply something like, "I know I'm going to disappoint you, but I've decided not to volunteer this year, because I fear I'll end up feeling resentful. Is there any way to get some of the other parents to step up?" For more useful comebacks, click here.

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    “Can You Help Me?”

    On the other hand, admitting when you need a hand—and saying yes to an offer of help—can be transformative. Whether you’re reluctant to ask for support a larger-than-you-can-chew work project or for some babysitting reinforcement during those bleary-eyed days of caring for a newborn, it’s natural to fear looking weak, needy, or incompetent, according to the New York Times. But not asking for help, or declining an offer of it, can sometimes let the problem spiral out of hand. M. Nora Klaver, author of MayDay! Asking for Help in Times of Need offers some specific tips for how to ask for assistance without feeling weak. For one, say thanks immediately, then after you’ve gotten the help you need, and then when you next see the person.

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