Recently, I was asked by Real Simple magazine to come up with a list of “10 Phrases that Should Be Banned from Conversations.” Upon thinking this over and jotting down a few ideas, I realized that narrowing a list like this down to just 10 would be a quite an undertaking.
Our daily conversations are littered with questionable phrases; whether in the workplace or chatting with friends over lunch. The fact is, we all need to make an effort to be mindful of how our words might be perceived by others, and make changes accordingly.
For this assignment, therefore, I decided to concentrate on 10 phrases that are so commonly used we don’t always think of them as impolite or insensitive, but they can easily be offensive in certain situations.
- You look tired – maybe you were up all night with a sick child, suffer from insomnia, or are just having a rough day. Regardless of the situation, telling someone they “look tired” is just code for they “look terrible.”
- Don’t take this personally – this is simply a distraction technique because whatever comes next, I promise, it’s personal.
- Calm down – it doesn’t matter if you are speaking to a child or an adult, you should refrain from telling anyone to calm down. This can come across as dismissive or patronizing, especially if the person is expressing a legitimate concern or emotion.
- You’ve lost weight – Even if meant as a compliment, drawing attention to someone’s weight is always a no-no.
- Trust me – like the late-night infomercials of the 90’s (trust me, I’m a doctor!), anyone who leads with “trust me” is NOT to be trusted.
- I’ll call you – this phrase is used to get off the hook when it comes to making a decision. If someone says they will call you, chances are high that you will never hear from them again.
- I’ve never told this to anyone before – commence red flags and warning sirens! Anyone who leads with this has used this line many times before and is trying to manipulate you.
- You’re being too sensitive – similar to calm down, telling someone they are being too sensitive just invalidates their very real feelings and experiences.
- Can you keep a secret – if you share sensitive information with someone and then ask them to keep quiet, you’re actually transferring responsibility off of yourself and onto someone else. Next time someone asks you if you can keep a secret, smile, say no and walk away.
- [Insert name here] never had that problem – this is a backhanded way of saying that your performance is not up to par. If someone else could do it, why can’t you? If you are in any sort of position of power, make an effort to never, ever let this one slip. It’s rude, offensive and just plain unacceptable.
If you have ever been on the receiving end of these 10 phrases, you know just how hurtful they can be. Make an extra effort to consider your words carefully. If you do happen to say something that is offensive, offer a sincere apology and move on. You can’t take spoken words back, you can only learn from your mistakes and avoid making them again in the future.