Keep it Tactful Worksheet

Recognize Toxicity

Zero toxicity is ideal. Like tiny drops of mercury in a large lake, even very small negative innuendos can have a toxic impact on you, your spouse, and your marriage. Irri­tated voice tones, subtle barbs, criticisms, snide remarks, sarcasm, and harsh comments— not to mention more aggressive name-calling or insults—are all unpleasant at best and seriously hurtful at worst. The less toxicity, the more safe and loving your home will feel.

To increase your awareness of toxicity, mark on the scale below each statement how hurtful the statement sounds. What makes the considerate and tactful statements differ­ent from the others?


The first and fourth statements above use fairly neutral words and consequently, unless the tone of voice is irritated, pass the tact test. The others each include negatively loaded words or phrases, putting them in the somewhat toxic to extremely toxic side of the spectrum.

Next time you face the challenge of saying something heartfelt about a sensitive issue, you can avoid stirring up trouble by being sure your tone of voice and the words you choose are considerate, not toxic. The following ideas can further help you to keep your comments pollution-free.

Convert Judgmental Reactions to Compassionate Readings

The way you think about or describe your spouse can range from respectful to harshly judgmental. Would you prefer to be considered curious or nosy? The various labels you give your spouse may all be accurate at heart, but kinder words make for a far happier marriage.

Often it takes some creativity to find the compassionate reading. Use your most flex­ible thinking to replace some of the following judgmental terms with sympathetic words and phrases. Follow the examples in the first three cases.

  • Judgmental: Dumb
  • Sympathetic: Distracted
  • Judgmental: Lazy
  • Sympathetic: Tired; easy-going
  • Judgmental: Messy
  • Sympathetic: Full of life; casual about keeping things orderly.

Judgmental: Fat

Judgmental: Overbearing

Judgmental: Demanding

Judgmental: Intrusive

Judgmental: Inconsiderate

Incidentally, choosing your descriptive words carefully for maximum tact is impor­tant with children as well. A child who is bossy, for instance, can be thought of as show­ing budding leadership. A child who hits has warrior potential. You still need to help the child develop more socially appropriate habits, but you and your child will feel better along the way.

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