Not everyone is going to come straight out and say it when they think you’re wrong.
Perhaps they’re trying their best to bite their tongue. Maybe they are hoping to remain polite and avoid conflict. Or they could simply prefer passive-aggressive techniques to make their displeasure known.
But there are still some giveaways.
If someone uses these 18 phrases in a conversation, chances are, they’re subtly criticizing you.
1) “Suit yourself”
My mom always used this one on me growing up, and here’s what she usually meant:
I think you’re wrong but it looks like you’re going ahead regardless.
If someone uses this phrase, they may also be suggesting that your actions are self-serving and you’ve not considered other people.
“Suit yourself” is a criticism that hints at you making a mistake or being selfish.
2) “I thought you knew this by now?”
You SHOULD know this by now.
Any reason that you don’t know this by now is purely your fault and you should sort it out.
3) “It’s fine, don’t worry about it”
A lot of whether this is a subtle criticism or not can depend on the tone of voice it is said in as well as the context.
But when it’s expressed after someone feels let down or disappointed, then for sure it’s meant critically.
It’s a way of saying “I guess I’ll just have to do it myself” — even if that’s begrudgingly.
4) “If that’s what you want”
Much like “suit yourself”, this phrase highlights that the person saying it will go along with your wishes but they’re not thrilled about it.
They won’t put up any opposition or try to talk you out of it. But they don’t necessarily agree with you about it either.
5) “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed”
Spoken by parents and teachers all across the globe!
When someone is angry, we’re more likely to be defensive. That’s why when someone says they are disappointed in us it’s a much bigger guilt trip.
Whatever you have done wrong, you should have known better.
They’re relying on the fact that this little phrase will mean you beat yourself up over it, so they don’t have to.
6) “That’s an interesting way of looking at things”
“Interesting” in a lot of instances is simply polite code for weird or wrong.
They don’t see your point of view or disagree with your ideas, but they don’t want to directly say so.
They probably think that this is a far more diplomatic thing to say.
7) “Just a friendly reminder”
It may be friendly, or it may be a little bit passive-aggressive.
Either way, this “friendly reminder” is one they feel like they have had to make. And the reason is that you’ve not done something you should have done.
It might have been some work they expected you to do that you haven’t gotten around to. Or it could be a standard of behavior that you have failed to uphold in their eyes.
But it’s a subtle way of saying you should get your act together.
8) “I don’t think you are grasping my point”
This one is a double whammy as it’s not only critical, it’s condescending too.
Let’s face it, by suggesting you just aren’t getting it, they’re sort of calling into question your intellect and your capacity to understand what they say.
9) “Look, it’s very simple…”
They’re teaching you something but it hasn’t clicked into place yet.
What they’re trying to say is:
It’s not complicated, so why are you struggling?
Highlighting that something is simple serves no purpose other than to try to make you feel bad if you don’t get it.
Really the problem is their lack of patience.
10) “You seem very upset”
Now, if they’d said “I’m sorry you are so upset” that would be different. But instead, they are pointing out that you are emotional.
And in doing so, it sounds quite critical.
Phrases like “Calm down” or “You’re being very sensitive” are there to subtly undermine and invalidate your feelings towards something.
11) “You shouldn’t take it so much to heart”
This is another phrase that attempts to dismiss someone’s sensitivity.
It’s another way of saying pull yourself together or toughen up.
The suggestion is that your emotions about it are unhelpful.
12) “Is that clear now?”
This is often said after someone has had to reiterate their point.
Regardless of whether you intentionally broke the rules or not, they are putting you in your place.
13) “Don’t take this the wrong way”
I don’t think I have ever heard someone use this phrase without it being followed by an insulting statement.
It’s intended to mean that they come in peace and that any tough love they are about to dish out is well-meant.
Even if it is, that doesn’t mean it’s not also a criticism.
14) “No offense”
This is the phrase usually uttered before someone passes unkind judgment on you.
For some reason, people mistakenly think this absolves them of all responsibility for any cruel or rude thing they’re about to say.
But it doesn’t.
Yet they still say it in the hopes you will politely swallow whatever critique comes your way.
15) “Well it’s a shame you feel that way”
The reason it’s a shame is because you are wrong in their eyes.
Whenever someone is “sorry that we feel that way” it’s not real sympathy or understanding.
It’s just a way of acknowledging you are not happy but without acknowledging you may have a right to feel that way.
16) “If I were you I would…”
This is usually swiftly followed by some unsolicited advice.
Whilst sometimes well-meaning, the underlying point is that they are not you.
If someone uses this phrase to question something you have done, it’s usually because they would have acted differently.
The problem is that it’s very easy to throw around judgment when we haven’t walked in someone else’s shoes.
17) Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought…
Despite its guise as being humble, they already know full well that they’re not wrong.
They are just trying to remind you of why you are wrong.
18) “It’s certainly not how I would have gone about things”
There is an air of superiority to this phrase.
Sure, it can be said by a loved one who is trying to be supportive even when they don’t agree.
But the point is that the wording of it does still highlight that they don’t agree with your course of action. So there’s no getting around it, it is still a criticism.