So what are the three words and why are they so toxic? They are "you are wrong," and if you use them, I guarantee there is a trail of resentment following behind you. This resentment can be from co-workers, staff, peers, and even customers.
Every time I hear someone utter these three words, I can almost feel the anger rising and the resentment growing from the person on the receiving end. It might not be obvious to the person saying it, but it can cut someone to the core in a heartbeat, especially if it is said with a hint of aggression behind it.
Saying "you are wrong" breaks pretty much every rule of quality human interaction. No one wants to feel like they are wrong, and even worse, to be told that they are wrong adds insult to injury.
If people are saying this in the workplace, well that is just wrong. Personally I think people who have this phrase in their "personal feedback" repertoire tend to look immature every time they use it.
For starters, in their opinion it might be you who is wrong, which doesn't make it fact--it is just an opinion. Second, even if someone is clearly wrong, pointing it out so blatantly doesn't do much except make that person feel small. Of course, this is what someone needing to feel big hopes for.
And finally, telling someone "you are wrong" makes that person want to prove he or she is right, which can lead to arguments, or even worse, a resentful mission to prove the accuser wrong. The cycle continues and everyone loses.
Next time you see someone utter the words "you are wrong," take a second and see how it makes you feel, even if the words are not directed at you. Likewise, if you use these words, after they have left your mouth, feel the mood of the conversation change and get dark. It pretty much ends the conversation.
This is just one phrase, of course, and there are others that have considerable impact, not in a good way. The world is moving toward greater connection and engagement and how we talk to others is becoming increasingly important; we need to be very considered with every interaction.
We all have words that were said to us years ago that we never forget. Having someone in a position of authority and respect pointing a finger and saying "you are wrong" is certainly one of those experiences that will stay with you for a long time.