12 Phrases That Guarantee a Fight

“You need to settle down.”

Oh boy… Fighting words.

I overheard a man (perhaps a husband) say that to (I presume) his wife. I was going for a run and passed this unwise soul while he was talking on his cell phone. As I cut through the parking lot, I heard him deliver his statement.

Bam. Pow.

YIKES. He didn’t just say one of the top twelve phrases that guarantee a fight, he packed two into one breath and delivered a double blow: “You need to…”(BAM!) followed by the direct hit of “settle down” (Pow!) A double whammy.

I really wanted to stop, pull him aside, and give him a little advice.

But…I didn’t. I chose to mind my own business and keep running. I’m guessing the conversation escalated. (This would be an educated guess because I have used and received these top twelve phrases and… they don’t go over very well.)

Here the top twelve
high powered phrases
that pack a one-two punch …

words I need to keep out of my vocabulary unless my goal is to climb into the ring.


1. You need to

2. You should have

3. You ought to

4. Why didn’t you

5. I told you so

6. I told you to

7. Settle down

8. Just relax

9. Chill out

10. Grow up

11. You always

12. You never


These words move us to our separate corners in either the parent-child or in the husband and wife relationship.

Shaming, stating absolutes, or condescension add fuel to the conflict. The issue escalates to personal attacks rather than deescalates to problem-solving mode.

This goes against what we really want for our relationships. Most of us want harmony. We want unity. We want to be on the same side of the ropes as our spouse. The same team with our kids.



Our kids and spouse are not the enemy …

Let’s not assign sinister motives to the other. Instead…let’s  assume the best in each other.

Let’s not tear each other down. Instead…let’s encourage each other.

Let’s avoid sarcasm and put-downs. Instead…let’s be kind.

Instead of speaking the top twelve let’s stick to seeking a solution. With kids, rather than saying, “I told you so…” (no matter how tempting) turn the moment into a training time by asking, “How will you handle this differently next time?”

In the case of the spouse, rather than hitting on what he or she already knows with the coulda, shoulda, woulda…quiet is called for.

When the other person becomes highly volatile instead of suggesting he or she take it down a notch; rather reflect, “I can see you are upset.” Then ask, “How can I help?”

I want respect, love, and kindness to reign in my home. So I must do my part and  speak with respect, love, and kindness.


Show proper respect to everyone.
– 1 Peter 2:17 –




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About the author : Lori Wildenberg

Lori Wildenberg is a mom of four and wife for thirty-one years. She is the co-founder of Corinthians 13 Parenting, author, national speaker, a licensed Parent and Family Educator, and co-columnist for Parenting Prose found in MARRIAGE Magazine. She weaves warmth, transparency, and gentle humor into her realistic approach to raising kids today. The Wildenbergs (and their labradoodle) live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

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