People who lack emotional intelligence use these 9 phrases without realizing they’re being unkind

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There’s a thin line between being straightforward and being unkind, and it often comes down to emotional intelligence.

People with high emotional intelligence know how to express their thoughts and feelings in ways that consider others’ emotions.

However, those who lack this crucial skill might unintentionally come across as harsh or insensitive, not realizing that their choice of words might be hurtful.

Emotional Intelligence is about understanding and managing our emotions, as well as those of the people around us.

And unfortunately, there are certain phrases that people with low emotional intelligence often use without realizing they’re being unkind.

In this article, we’ll uncover those 9 phrases to help you avoid falling into the trap of unintentional unkindness.

1) “Calm down”

Navigating emotional situations can be a tricky business, particularly if you’re not fully attuned to the feelings of the person you’re speaking with.

One phrase that those lacking emotional intelligence often use is “calm down”. The intent might be to defuse a heated situation, but it can often have the opposite effect.

Telling someone to “calm down” invalidates their feelings, making them feel like their emotions aren’t justified or understood. It might even escalate the situation, as they may feel dismissed and unheard.

Emotional intelligence involves recognizing and acknowledging the emotions of others, even if they’re intense or uncomfortable. Instead of trying to suppress these emotions with a dismissive “calm down”, one should try to empathize and validate the other person’s feelings.

It’s not always about solving the problem right away but acknowledging it exists. Doing so can make a world of difference in how your words are received.

2) “You’re too sensitive”

In my personal experience, one phrase that I’ve found particularly unkind is “you’re too sensitive”. There was a time when a friend used this phrase when I expressed my feelings about a situation that had upset me.

Instead of understanding where I was coming from, she dismissed my feelings with a simple “you’re too sensitive”. It felt like a punch to the gut. My feelings, which were very real and valid to me, were brushed off as an overreaction.

The phrase “you’re too sensitive” is often used by those who lack emotional intelligence. It’s an easy way to belittle someone’s emotions without taking the time to understand or empathize with them.

Being told you’re too sensitive can make you feel like your feelings are unwelcome or wrong. It invalidates your experience and can make you question your own emotional responses.

Emotional intelligence is about understanding and validating emotions – both our own and those of others.

If someone is expressing their feelings, it’s important to respect that, even if we don’t fully understand or agree with them.

3) “That’s not my problem”

The phrase “that’s not my problem” is often used as a defensive mechanism, a way to avoid taking responsibility or showing empathy towards others. It’s a statement that can be particularly hurtful as it directly communicates a lack of interest or concern for the other person’s issue.

People who regularly express a lack of empathy or dismiss the problems of others may have lower levels of emotional intelligence.

Emotionally intelligent people understand that we all share a collective responsibility to help each other out. They’re more likely to say something like “Let’s see how we can solve this together” or “I can understand why you’re upset”.

Using the phrase “that’s not my problem” isn’t just unkind, it can also damage relationships and make it difficult for others to trust you in times of need.

It’s always better to show compassion and empathy, even if you can’t directly solve the problem at hand.

4) “I don’t care”

“I don’t care” is another phrase often used without realizing how unkind it can come across. It’s an outright dismissal of someone else’s feelings or opinions, which can be particularly hurtful.

When someone shares something with us, whether it’s a problem, a feeling, or an idea, they’re usually looking for validation or understanding. By responding with “I don’t care”, we’re essentially telling them that their thoughts and feelings are insignificant to us.

Emotionally intelligent people understand the importance of showing interest and empathy towards others.

Even if they don’t fully agree with what’s being said, they would still acknowledge the other person’s perspective and engage in a respectful conversation.

Responding with “I understand your perspective” instead of “I don’t care” can make all the difference.

It shows that you respect their viewpoint even if you disagree, and that you value the relationship more than winning an argument.

5) “You always…” or “You never…”

Generalizations can be a dangerous territory, especially in emotionally charged situations. Phrases that start with “You always…” or “You never…” are common examples of this.

These phrases exaggerate behaviors and actions, often painting the other person in an unfair and negative light. It’s a form of criticism that doesn’t leave much room for a constructive conversation.

Emotionally intelligent people understand the impact of their words and tend to avoid such sweeping statements. Instead, they focus on specific situations or behaviors without labeling or blaming the other person.

For example, instead of saying “You never listen to me”, they might say “I felt unheard when I was talking about my day”.

This approach is more likely to lead to a productive conversation and less likely to provoke defensiveness.

After all, communication is key in any relationship, and it’s important to express our feelings in a respectful and considerate manner.

6) “It’s just a joke”

This phrase, “it’s just a joke”, can be particularly damaging when the joke in question has hurt someone’s feelings. It might seem like a light-hearted way to brush off the situation, but to the person on the receiving end, it can feel like their feelings are being dismissed or belittled.

Humor is a wonderful thing, and it can bring people together like nothing else. But when it’s at the expense of someone else’s feelings, it can create distance and resentment.

Emotionally intelligent people understand this. They know that everyone has different sensitivities and what might be funny to one person could be hurtful to another.

If someone expresses that they’re hurt by a joke, an emotionally intelligent response might be “I didn’t realize that my joke could be hurtful. I’m sorry.” This acknowledges their feelings without belittling them and shows that you’re willing to take responsibility for your actions.

It’s not about whether you intended to hurt someone or not. It’s about how your actions were received by them.

And it’s always better to apologize and learn from the situation than to dismiss their feelings with “it’s just a joke”.

7) “At least…”

Years ago, I faced a significant setback in my career. I was feeling low and shared my feelings with a close friend. Instead of empathizing, they responded with “At least you still have a job”.

While their intention might have been to help me see the bright side, it felt dismissive. Instead of comforting me, it felt like they were downplaying my feelings.

The phrase “at least…” is often used with good intentions. We believe we’re providing a silver lining or some perspective. However, it can minimize the person’s feelings and make them feel like they have no right to be upset or disappointed.

Emotionally intelligent people understand that it’s essential to validate feelings first before trying to offer a positive perspective.

A simple “I can see why you’re upset” can go a long way in making someone feel heard and understood.

8) “Whatever”

The phrase “whatever” is often thrown around without an understanding of how dismissive it can be. It’s a way of shutting down a conversation and making the other person feel like their thoughts or feelings are unimportant.

When we use “whatever” in response to someone, it gives off the impression that we’re not interested in engaging with them or their perspective. It can leave them feeling unheard and insignificant.

Emotionally intelligent people understand the value of maintaining open lines of communication, even when conversations get tough. Instead of resorting to dismissive phrases like “whatever”, they would choose to express their thoughts more constructively.

For example, if they disagree with something, they might say “I see things differently” or “I have a different perspective on this”.

This shows respect for the other person’s viewpoint and keeps the conversation open for further discussion.

It’s possible to disagree without being dismissive.

9) “I’m not being mean, I’m just being honest”

Honesty is a virtue, but it’s not an excuse for unkindness. The phrase “I’m not being mean, I’m just being honest” is often used to justify hurtful comments under the guise of truthfulness.

Understanding the impact of our words is a key component of emotional intelligence. It’s possible to be honest without being hurtful. The key lies in how we express our honesty – with respect and consideration for the other person’s feelings.

If someone feels hurt by our words, it’s our responsibility to acknowledge that, apologize, and learn from the experience.

After all, the goal of communication should be understanding and connection, not causing pain or discomfort.

Words matter

The subtleties of human communication are profoundly complex, often deeply intertwined with our emotions and relationships.

Emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in shaping the way we communicate, particularly in how we use and respond to certain phrases.

It’s intriguing to note that research from Yale University suggests that simply changing the way we phrase our words can significantly alter the emotional impact they carry.

For instance, those phrases we’ve discussed, often used by those lacking emotional intelligence, can unintentionally cause hurt or misunderstanding. But with a bit more awareness and empathy, we can shift our language to be more considerate and understanding.

The journey towards emotional intelligence is a continual one. We all stumble, make mistakes, and occasionally say things we don’t intend to. The key lies in recognizing these moments, learning from them, and striving to communicate more thoughtfully.

Remember, words matter. They have the power to hurt or heal, to build bridges or burn them. So let’s choose them wisely.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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