‘I Told You So’ and Other Words and Phrases that Trigger Feelings

Ever get angry when you overhear somebody saying something that really bugs you?

Something I personally have a quick anger response to is when someone points out I am wrong when I thought I was correct.

I struggle with admitting I am incorrect when I am JUST SURE I was correct about something. Conversely, if I already thought I was wrong, I’m pretty OK with it.

For example, when involved in a game of trivia, I love to throw out a potential answer that sounds confident. If I’m wrong about that, well, you shouldn’t have picked my answer. Being wrong when I am not confident in my accuracy does not bother me nearly as much.

An example of being potentially incorrect occurred when I was in high school.

I remember playing a game of Trivial Pursuit in our Psychology class. The class was one of my favorites (I went on to major in it in college), the teacher was young and fun, and we were in groups.

The question went something like this: ‘What is the only city to own their NFL football team?’

I yelled out ‘Green Bay Packers!’. My team went with my answer, as I sounded confident and as if I knew what I was talking about.

In this example, I was correct. To this day, I have no idea what made me say the Green Bay Packers answer. I do like the colors of the team, and I just threw it out there.

The Green Bay Packers, in the late 80’s, were the only NFL team owned by the city, which was Green Bay, Wisconsin.

I was gleeful.

The game we were playing, while being both entertaining and engaging for high school students, also represented a couple of psychological phenomenons.

One of those is a term called ‘Group Think’. In Group Think, if enough people agree about something, they will convince themselves they are correct due to several of them being in agreement. Think ‘we must be right, because we all think the answer is yes’.

A group of people, while brainstorming about something, or trying to decide which Trivia answer which has been thrown out is correct, start to become convinced of the accuracy of an answer once enough people in the group believe it to be true.

Another interesting psychological effect of groups is known as the ‘Abilene Effect’. This one is particularly interesting to me, and frequently happens when people are trying to decide on a place to go together.

In the Abilene study, one person wants to eat dinner at one place in Texas. I am not sure where it is, but let’s call it Frisco.

Another person in the example wants to eat somewhere else in Texas, let’s call it Waco. There is no one single place that everyone wants to go, but Abilene seems the least offensive to the group in this example.

The group of people ends up eating dinner in Abilene, Texas which is a two hour drive from where they started.

The reason they agreed upon Abilene is because no one wanted to be the person to insist upon eating at the place that they had been the only person to choose. Rather, they would prefer to go to the place that most people could agree was not as terrible of a choice for the group.

In this example, no one in the car wants to drive to Abilene at all, they just didn’t really know where it was, or didn’t hate being there, or something like that. (this study was also popular in the late ’80’s in my Organizational Psychology class, Z300 for Indiana University Kelley School of Business students at that time)

For today’s topic, which is Trigger Words that make us feel strongly when we hear them, I urge you to think about a couple of trigger words or phrases that cause strong feelings within you.

It could be a positive phrase. One phrase I frequently use with my own children is ‘Be Wise’.

I feel better saying it, and it encompasses a whole lot of things for them to be wise about as they continue into their 20’s.

I like to say it, and they tolerate me when I say it. I have another friend who yells out ‘Make Good Choices’ when their college age child is walking away.

It could also be a phrase that really upsets you, or ‘gets your goat’. For my family of origin, we loved to quote the character Fonzi from the show ‘Happy Days’.

Fonzi struggled to admit he was wrong, so when he said he was wrong it sounded like ‘I was wro……I was ronnnn…..I was waaa waaa waa…..’

In our family, the person who was wrong starts that little sequences of sounds/words.

Following this, the other member of my family of origin happily supplies ‘Wrong?? You were wrong?’

The smile that follows that interaction is as predictable as the interaction itself.

I leave you with a couple of questions:

What is something you would like to hear from someone else or think to yourself?

If it is something you say to yourself, or ‘self talk’, what nice thing can you tell yourself today, and what phrase that you enjoy hearing from someone else helps uplift your spirits, or triggers positive feelings?

What is something you wish didn’t cause you so many feelings, either said by you, a close friend or family member, or even someone sitting at a nearby table. How does this word, phrase, or sound trigger negative feelings in you?

the sun is peaking over the ocean.. the ocean looks dark and the sun is a bright yellow
The Sun as it Rises Over the Ocean

Enjoy your day and I hope you hear some sounds you love today!


Published by terriparke

I have an MA in Community Counseling and a BS in Psychology. I like to provide mental health talk therapy, write, and consult. I'm an Indiana girl at heart, both the state and the University. My 20 something twin sons and older than 50 husband could tell you more-Happy reading!

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