If someone uses these 10 phrases, they lack empathy and respect for others

A few years ago, I was crying on my sofa after having my heart broken. In a poor attempt to soothe me, my then-flatmate said, “Hey, look on the bright side, at least you’re single again! Yay!”

Surprise, surprise – her words of wisdom did not help at all. I just continued to wail.

In fact, this wasn’t an isolated incident. There were plenty of times when the woman I lived with at the time displayed a lack of empathy and even respect for others.

And it often manifested through her language.

Want to know if someone lacks empathy and respect for other people?

These are the 10 phrases they tend to use.

1) “Look, I think you should…”

Sounds harmless enough, right?

Except it’s not.

“I think you should” attempts to offer advice, sure, but oftentimes, people who confide in you with their struggles or are having a breakdown don’t necessarily want you to give them a to-do list.

All they want is some emotional support. For example, the one thing I want when I’m sharing my troubles with my friends is a bit of validation and love. Only when I’ve calmed down is it time for solutions.

Another problem with “I think you should” is that it immediately places you in a superior position to the other person.

It basically translates to, “You may not know what to do, but I’ve got it all figured out. Just listen to me and so as I say.”

Obviously, this isn’t what people usually want to hear. They want a sense of companionship, not someone who will order them around on top of everything.

2) “At least…”

Remember when my flatmate told me my breakup at least meant I was single again?

She made it seem like a good thing, but it was the worst possible thing she could have said at the moment because it only reminded me of just how much I’d lost.

Don’t get me wrong, singledom is amazing. I love it. But when you’re in the midst of a heartbreak, it doesn’t help to look on the bright side.

An even worse course of action is to compare somebody’s suffering to something that’s seemingly worse.

“Hey, at least you’re not starving or homeless. A silver lining, right?”

Not really. While I am a huge advocate of the power of gratitude, there’s a time and place for it.

When someone’s crying or raging, it’s not it.

In those moments, it’s usually best to ask the person in question what it is they need and offer them that, from emotional support to practical advice, from distraction to a bit of space.

3) “It’s not such a big deal…”

…it is, though.

It is a big deal to the person who’s upset about it, and that should be enough for us to take the issue seriously and try to remain respectful of their feelings.

Some people are more sensitive than others, and what’s more, we all have different traumas, unhealed wounds, and triggers that may not make much sense to other people but mean a lot to us.

You never know the specifics of what someone’s been through. The least you can do is avoid invalidating their emotions.

Because that’s what “It’s not such a big deal” is. It’s emotional invalidation. It’s dismissal. It’s neglect.

And if you’re in a close or intimate relationship with this person, the fact that you don’t take them seriously will hurt them even more than the issue they originally got upset about.

4) “Can you just drop it?”

No. They can’t.

There’s a reason why people keep bringing up the same stuff over and over again – they either need more reassurance or the issue has not been solved properly.

“Can you just drop it?” helps neither.

It shows a lack of empathy – because you’re dismissing the other person’s concerns – as well as no respect – because the question comes from a place of annoyance and potentially even contempt.

Asking people to drop it has never actually helped solve a problem.

Empathy is the way.

5) “That’s a ‘you’ problem…”

While it is true that some people do drag others into problems that are theirs to solve, responding with “That’s a ‘you’ problem” is never a good idea.


Because it makes the person feel alone, rejected, and wounded.

Because it completely removes you from the equation even though you could help them in some way if you wanted to, even if just by giving them a hug.

Because it can sound quite passive-aggressive, upsetting the recipient even further.

If you want to tell someone that they ought to deal with an issue on their own, you can do so in a sensitive and respectful way. Heck, you can have a whole conversation about it.

Don’t ditch them with “That’s a ‘you’ problem”.

6) “I don’t really care about this…”

Well, that’s just plain rude.

If you don’t care, find a nice way to exit the conversation or stir it in a new direction.

There’s no need to make others feel irrelevant and small when all they’re trying to do is talk to you.

7) “I told you so…”

When you give someone advice and watch them go against it and fail, you might feel the urge to raise your eyebrows in judgment, saying, “I told you so.”

Trust me, I know that feeling. I’ve been in that position plenty of times.

However, I always try to refrain.

Here’s why – the person already knows you were right. They know they’ve screwed up. They feel ashamed as it is. There’s really no need to add more to the flame, is there?

If someone lacks empathy and respect for others, though, this is precisely what they might say because they consider it more important to come out on top than to care for the other person’s well-being.

In other words, their ego gets the better of them.

8) “I’m just being honest…”

Are you? Or are you being mean and hiding your cruelty behind the label of honesty?

I used to have a friend who would always make sarcastic and borderline cruel jokes about me, but when I brought it up, she would just wave her hand in dismissal and say, “Look, I’m just being honest. I’m the only friend who will always tell you the truth. You should appreciate that.”

Thanks, I’ll pass.

It’s safe to say our friendship didn’t last all that long.

Of course, honesty is an extremely valuable part of any relationship. It helps build trust and a sense of safety.

However, the way you go about being honest matters a great deal. In most cases, it is absolutely possible to go down the route of gentle honesty rather than brutal honesty.

All it takes is putting a bit more thought and consideration into your words.

9) “That’s just life…”

Yeah, so what?

If your friend complains about something, telling them “That’s just life” isn’t really going to do much. They already know their problem is part of life. They’re upset about it anyway, though, and that’s completely valid.

Instead of sprinkling these words of wisdom and nodding to yourself, thinking you’ve just brought the whole issue to its conclusion, try to actively listen to your friend and empathize with them.

As mentioned previously, people don’t necessarily want practical advice or generic words of wisdom they can find on the internet.

They want you to hold space for them and their feelings.

10) “I’m sorry that’s how you feel…”

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the worst apology in history: “I’m sorry that’s how you feel.”

This form of apology is so very common and yet it’s actually not an apology at all.

In fact, it flips the narrative on its head and puts the blame on the person who’s hurting. Let’s unpack the phrase:

  • “I’m sorry” – so good so far
  • “that’s how you feel” – changes the meaning from taking accountability for one’s actions to feeling annoyed the other person’s reacting in a way that’s not exactly convenient

A good apology always centers around trying to understand the wounded party, taking accountability for what you’ve done, and apologizing for your behavior specifically.

If someone uses the phrase “I’m sorry that’s how you feel,” though… it’s the last sign they lack empathy and respect for others.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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