What’s A Neutral Phrase & Is It A Lie?

It’s probably safe to say I have no problem with confrontation and have a bit of a temper when it comes to certain topics; women’s rights, politics, homelessness and if whether or not my uterus will be fulfilling its purpose anytime soon.

My Mom would tell you we’re passionate people, others might say we’re stubborn or hot-headed.

Now, my husband might tell you I’m opinionated in many other areas of life, but I would like to mention I’ve gotten a lot better at taming the beast. But, I’m not cured by any means and probably never will be.

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Recently I’ve learned the importance of neutral phrases. Have you heard of these? A line of words strung together that emote no emotion and are used specifically for responding to questions you’re not necessarily wanting to answer.

I’ve never thought to have a Rolodex of generic responses to any line of questioning that makes me uncomfortable. Doesn’t everyone just answer honestly and directly? No? That’s not always the best way? #oops 

Sorry not sorry, but I’m guilty as charged for being direct. According to my husband and coworkers, not all answers need to be honest. For example:

(At Christmas Dinner, surrounded by at least 15 family members) So, when are you and Matt having children? I usually don’t discuss my uterus at the dinner table. So, no? Insert silence and death stare. 

While I find my response humorous, it runs along the same lines as, “if you react negatively, you’ve let them get one over on you.” Sometimes it’s hard for us passionate people to take the emotion out of things.

Here’s another example:

We’re planning a trip to ski Mount Everest and was wondering if you’d join us? No, probably not. We don’t have the funds and who knows where we’ll be when this is all said and done. Which really means: No, the last time we had so be stuck with you for days was rough and I never want to do it again if I don’t have to. 

Instead of right off the bat saying no, insert neutral phrase: That sounds adventurous not Sounds great! Why? Because the latter has enthusiasm and sounds like you’re on board.

My husband explains, sometimes it’s easier to let them believe whatever they want to believe because A) how likely is it they will plan this trip to Everest or B) does it really need to be squashed the moment after the thought leaves their lips?

Obviously, I believe in the latter.

So if you’re like me and need a few phrases to keep in the bag for neutral responses, I’ve been collecting my favorites. Here are some for when the controlling person in your life demands an answer about your plans to show up to [insert any event or gathering you’re more than likely planning to bail on].

  1. I’ve got to double check my schedule. Thank you for the invite.
  2. I think I’ve got something else that day, if I can make it i’ll get back to you.
  3. Not positive my husband will be able to make it, he works that weekend and might want to do a movie marathon.

I love blaming my husband for when I don’t want to do something, and don’t go feeling sorry for him, he uses me as an excuse just as many times. It’s in the fine print of your marriage certificate.

Also, yes, neutral phrases is code for telling a white lie. 

Here are my favorite phrases for when I’ve had a rough day and want to be quiet, but my nosy neighbor won’t lay off the questions because they’re gossipy.

  1. Oh, just one of those nights where I tossed and tumbled all night.
  2. Nothings wrong, think I’m feeling a little under the weather.
  3. I’ve had terrible cramping all morning (or migraine) and need some silence.

Supposedly there are people who refrain from being an open book to any and all who ask. These people are considered in control and mild-mannered by my own definition and have mastered the art of keeping it at the surface.

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Maybe it’s not lying, but mostly about solidifying your own boundaries? Does everyone really need the truth all of the time? Are they on a need to know basis?

Any additional relationship that isn’t family or my husband is confusing for me. I think living in vastly different areas (New York, Florida, Virginia, Texas and California) contributes to my confusion, because each region has its own set of norms.

While my natural response will always tend to lean towards more direct, sometimes (if it’s called for) it’s okay to play it neutral.

PS:

“Direct people have the clearest and best relationships. It is difficult to feel close to passive personas, for we always have to guess what they want.” – Dr. Henry Cloud

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