"Always" and "Never" Statements are declarations containing the words "always" or "never". They are commonly used but rarely true.
“Always” and “Never” statements are frequently used by people when they are arguing in order to emphasize or illustrate the merits of their position. “Always” and “Never” statements are usually exaggerations, which serve an illustrative purpose and are understood by both parties to be hyperbole and not literal. As the self-contradicting adage says, “Always and Never statements are always false and never true.”
“Always” and “Never” statements are also very frequently used by individuals who suffer from personality disorders, because they fit neatly into the split, black and white world of their thinking. They are most often used in an accusatory, argumentative or self-pitying way.
- You never listen to me.
- I always give you what you want.
- My mother never loved me.
- You always have to have the last word.
- I never get any attention.
- You are always shouting and screaming at the children.
None of the above statements are true, yet they probably sound familiar.
While many people who use these statements rarely expect them to be taken as literal, factual truth, they may actually be a true expression of the person’s feelings.
For example, imagine a person says: "You never listen to me!"
You could respond directly to the statement and reply, “Yes, I do!” You may even venture into hyperbole-land yourself and claim to “always” listen to them, or say you have listened to them “millions of times”. You may even list all the occasions of listening that you can bring to mind. In doing so though, you may be missing the real message.
If you go to the next level and listen to the underlying feeling being expressed, “I want to be listened to”, you will have gone beyond the hyperbole and heard something honest. If you go one step further, perhaps you will hear: “I’m afraid that you may not consider me worth listening to.” Now you are approaching the heart of the matter.
Most of us use “Always” and “Never” statements rhetorically - it’s also wise to use them sparingly, lest our own credibility be called into question.
What it feels like:
“Always” and “Never” statements are popular delivery vehicles of FOG - Fear, Obligation and Guilt. The intention is often to:
Putt the recipient in a defensive posture. (Fear)
Make the recipient feel responsible for the problem. (Obligation)
Make the recipient feel sorry for the other person. (Guilt)
“Always” and “Never” statements can leave you feeling invalidated, unappreciated, disoriented and guilty, or have you scrambling to justify your own behavior.
What NOT to do:
If you find yourself on the receiving end of “Always” and “Never” statements:
- Don’t believe everything that is said in an “Always” and “Never” statement.
- It rarely helps to get defensive and start arguing your case. This can lead directly to a Circular Conversation. When a person uses “Always” and “Never” statements, they are rarely interested in establishing objective truth. Generally, they are trying to provoke an emotional response.
- Don't reciprocate with "Always"and"Never" statements of your own.
What TO do:
- Try to see past the questionable "facts" to understand the feeling that is being communicated.
- Objectively weigh the validity of any accusations you receive off-line when you are in a safe place with time to think.
- Share your experiences with a trusted confidant or a therapist who can help you to see the gray between the black and the white.
- Remove yourself and any children from any conversation which becomes verbally abusive or if a person refuses to stop talking after you have asked them.