This will be a multi-part topic since there are so many different communication fouls. This post will cover four fouls that should be avoided as they are are assumptions and they are toxic to relationships.
If you loved me you…
It is an error to assume we know someone else’s feelings and that we get to determine how another person shows love. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman does a nice job of explaining five ways that people show love – Quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts and physical touch – and while this list may not be exhaustive it is at least a good start. To avoid this one, first consider what idea you are wanting to get across and then put it into an “I” message. Such as, “I enjoy spending quality time together and I would like to do more of that, would that be ok with you?”
If you were really sorry you wouldn’t keep doing it
This is assuming we know both their feelings and their intent. People can be truly remorseful for their behavior and still not know how to change what they do, this is not a character flaw, it is just part of being human and having extremely complex brains. Repetitive problematic behavior can be related to so many things, such as not knowing it is a problem, not understanding how the behavior impacts others, not understanding one’s own motivation, not understanding the actual cause of the problem behavior and not knowing how to change the behavior.
You did that to hurt me
Assumes both that the person did the behavior on purpose and that they did it with an intent to be hurtful. We simply cannot know what goes on in someone else’s mind (generally speaking). The behavior could have been a complete accident and the person could be unaware that you would be hurt by whatever they did. Making an accusation shuts down effective communication, it just isn’t nice and when people are routinely wrongly accused they tend to put less emphasis on good behavior because it doesn’t really matter what they do. You can encourage others around you to make good choices by giving them the benefit of the doubt and opening up effective communication to work through problems.
I’m not important to you
Again this makes an assumption about the other person’s feelings and it is an accusation. This statement usually comes from not feeling loved and it is a problem on the part of the person saying it, not on the other person. An “I” statement would be preferable, such as “I’m feeling some distance in our relationship and I am feeling unimportant.” This takes responsibility for you own feelings and opens up for conversation about the problem; the other way shuts down effective communication and alienates the other person, which is the opposite of what you’re trying to do.