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Travelers to foreign countries often carry handy phrase books to help them navigate uncharted territory. Now there’s a guide for getting through tough times in plain English–an essential selection of well-honed phrases to help you soothe and smooth your way through any prickly situation.
Divided into three sections–Magic Words to say to yourself, to others, and for universal situations–this invaluable guide contains the verbal keys to the kingdom. Protect yourself in the midst of a tongue-lashing (“Are you actually yelling at me?”); politely remind an obnoxious cell-phone abuser to be courteous (“Don’t forget, you’re not in a phone booth”); or chant this mantra when things seem to be slipping over the edge (“If you want to gain control, you have to give up control”).
Life is full of little, and big, stumbling blocks. Whether you’re dealing with an over-inflated ego, meddling in-laws, or even creating the problems yourself, this sharp little handbook has all the Magic Words you need to get through the toughest of times.
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Can I Say "I Love You" Too Much?
Unless you have a compulsive disorder the answer to this Magic Word question is ABSOLUTELY NOT!
Most of us find it easy to say "Thank you." We say it without a second thought to complete strangers in supermarkets, at ball games, on the street, almost everywhere. And we say it to people we'll probably never meet again. Most of us even say "You're welcome" in response to a "Thank you." Now "I love you" is, we must admit, one word longer than "Thank you," and you don't necessarily want to say it to the supermarket checkout person. However, it shouldn't be that much more difficult to say to the people you truly care about.
We're generally able to muster the big three words at special events. It's as if "I love you" is a phrase that's supposed to be voiced only on those days that are circled on the calendar. We trot out the words at weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations. But when you really care about someone, they should be everyday words. Very important everyday words.
We met Theresa years ago when she was a hostess at a restaurant we went to a lot. She was smart, funny, and warm. We quickly became friends. Now she owns her own small restaurant. Like Theresa, the place is Italian. The food is great and the prices are reasonable. That's why it quickly became a success. It's nice to have a friend with a hot restaurant, because it sure helps when you want to get a reservation.
About the time Theresa opened her restaurant, she met Malcolm. Malcolm, who's an accountant, helped Theresa set up the restaurant's books. Pretty soon the two saw that they had more in common than debits and credits, and before Theresa's Cucina celebrated its first anniversary, the two were married. They're well suited to each other and very much in love. The only problem is that Theresa used to wish Malcolm was more expressive about his feelings. He's from an old New England family where expressions of affection were always kept under wraps.
Theresa's family punctuates almost every sentence with a hug and a kiss. "I guess it's the Mediterranean influence. When I was a kid and my mother would send me out for a quart of milk, she'd say to me, 'Be careful and remember I love you.' We always said 'I love you' to each other. That's just the way we were. It's not an easy thing for Malcolm to say, but I need it. Just the way a dog has to be petted, I need an 'I love you' every day. I decided I had to wage an all-out campaign to recondition Malcolm. I knew he'd never be like my family, but I had to move him a bit from his New England roots.
"I started to leave Post-its all around our apartment saying, 'I love you.' Some were in English, some Italian, even a couple in Chinese (I got one of my waiters to write it out for me in Mandarin). I put them everywhere: in his sock drawer, under his toothpaste, on the rearview mirror of his car. Occasionally, I would spell it out on the bathroom mirror in shaving cream. I knew he liked it, but it took a while for him to respond. Then one day as Malcolm was leaving to go to work he said it. Of course, he prefaced it by saying, 'By the way--.' It made my day. Now hardly a day goes by without an 'I love you, hon.' I don't know why it makes me feel so good, but damn it, it does."
If you want to make someone you love feel good, just say those three words. They always work.
It's Thimble Time
Each of us remembers our mother taking out a basket of clothes that needed mending and spending an hour or so sewing. Like many children, we were fascinated by the little metal thing that she put on one of her fingers. The thimble. We particularly loved the word. Thimble. It's right up there among the all-time cutest words. Many years later, that word led us to these Magic Words. They've served us and our friends very well.
Jocelyn, an old friend who's an editor at a home furnishings magazine, told us the following,
"This is about Amy and me. I'd say she's one of my closest friends. We met in our sophomore year at college. We're married to guys who were in the same fraternity. Our husbands play tennis together each week. Amy and I attend the same reading group and investment club. Our houses are a block apart. And, every summer, we share a house on the Cape for two weeks. I think you'd say that makes for a pretty close friendship. I care for her immensely and I know she feels the same way.
"Amy does one thing that drives me crazy. She has a perfect figure. Or as near perfect as a woman in her forties can have. And she knows it. She also works out like she's trying for the Olympics. My body is an entirely different story. I'm not fat, but I'll admit to "full-figured." I've always been that way. My husband, Gary, likes me the way I am, and that's the most important thing. I watch what I eat and I exercise. Doesn't change a thing. I have a certain body type and Amy has another. I've discussed this with her maybe a thousand times. She says she says she understands completely. Then why does she always make little remarks about the differences in our bodies? Things like, 'Those pants look great on you, Jocelyn. I wanted to buy them, but they didn't have them in my size.' Meaning: only the larger sizes were available. Or: 'I signed up to run in the 10K race in two weeks. I wish we could do it together someday.' Meaning: Your weight will probably never permit that. This is from a woman I care for immensely. I realize that she can't help it, since I've pointed out to her what she's doing many times. Amy's not saying something terrible, but it annoys the hell out of me. So whenever she does it I say, 'It's Thimble Time.' It's as if I wrap an imaginary thimble around myself and I'm completely protected from the occasional little jabs that Jocelyn sometimes gives me. Why let a little a pinprick ruin a great relationship?"
A thimble is just the right size to protect you from small annoyances. When Robert's wife boasts, as she does too often, "I could have qualified for the Olympic ski team if I hadn't married Robert," Robert puts on the thimble and sees the statement for what it is: an attempt by his occasionally insecure wife to sound important.
A friend's niece, Carrie, told us that on her first job, she was the official coffee girl. Every morning, as she poured coffee into one man's cup, he said, "That's the way I like it. Black and bitter." "He was relentless in his repetition," says Carrie. "I began to dread the moment when he'd hold out the cup. He always said it. It was such a petty thing, but it made me grit my teeth." She tried Thimble Time. "I made it a game. He'd hold out his cup and I'd say, 'Black and bitter.' We'd each try to get it in first, and I actually began to look forward to the moment I'd pour out the coffee. The joke turned him into a friend."
The first time Howard noticed his mother's thimble, he asked her what it was for. She told him that one little jab won't hurt, but if you keep jabbing the same place, you'll have a very sore finger. Maybe Thimble Time isn't for the big things, but much of life is made up of those small ones.