Communication is the bedrock of society. Unfortunately, language can fail us as much as anything else – especially if you’ve never spent much time cultivating your communication skills and perfecting your vocabulary.
There are people out there who are absolutely excellent communicators, though, and I think it’s about time we all learn a thing or two from them.
People with great communication skills never say these 8 phrases.
1) “Would you like to…”
Brits love this one.
Whenever you’re in the UK, it’s always “would you like” this or “would you like” that – and while all Brits instinctively know that “would you like” is a request more than a question, many foreigners (me included) still struggle to grasp that concept.
When I worked as a housekeeper, my English boss once asked me, “Would you like to clean the kitchen?”
The kitchen was the worst part of the whole house. It smelled awful, there were bits of food everywhere, and a furry cat kept getting in the way on the kitchen counter.
I looked at her, dumbfounded. “Well, I prefer to hoover when we’re in this house, but I’ll clean the kitchen if you want me to.”
Her eyes widened. “You’re a cheeky one!”
Was I? We were both so confused by the interaction that it took us a couple of minutes to sort ourselves out.
Of course, I ended up cleaning the messy kitchen. And I also learned that “would you like” means “I want you to do this” in British.
If you’re a fan of “would you like”, try switching to “could you please”. It’s much clearer.
2) “I think you should…”
“I think you should do X and Z.”
Uhm, excuse me, Mr. Know-It-All, I didn’t know I was asking you for advice? I should have brought a notepad with me!
The reason great communicators avoid “I think you should” is that the phrase is very emotionally dismissive. Instead of offering consolation, supporting you in your feelings, or listening with understanding and empathy, the person quickly resorts to rational advice.
But sometimes, people don’t want to be told what to do. They just want to confide in someone who’ll make them feel understood and validated.
What’s more, “I think you should” rings of arrogance because it makes it sound like your piece of advice is the absolute best course of action.
Try different alternatives, such as “have you considered”, “what about”, or “it might be a good idea to…”
3) “Oh, come on, get over it”
And you thought “I think you should” was the king of dismissal? Nah. It still has a long way to go before it reaches the heights of “get over it”.
“Get over it” is one of the worst phrases you could ever say to anyone because it means you:
Deem the person too emotionally weak, which only makes them feel worse
Don’t relate to their issue and even find it quite silly
Are bored or annoyed by their displays of emotional distress, invalidating how they feel
All in all, it’s pretty awful.
If you feel really down about something, the last thing you need is for someone to tell you you’re being silly and should just move on.
Emotions don’t work like that. If they did, we’d all be constantly happy.
4) “You’re just weird”
Imagine opening up to a friend about something very vulnerable, only for them to turn around and say, “You’re just weird.”
And there it is. The sinking feeling in your stomach. The fear that you will be forever misunderstood. The thought that maybe, you *are* too weird. Maybe, you’ll never fit in. Maybe, something’s wrong with you.
It’s strange that a few little words can do so much damage, yet that’s exactly what “you’re just weird” is an expert at. This phrase aims not only to dismiss someone’s issues but also to make them feel like they don’t belong.
Like they’re an alien species.
The key to great communication is empathy. Openness. Acceptance. “You’re just weird” nips all of that in the bud.
5) “You’re always like this”
When does excellent communication come in handy the most?
During arguments. And one of the least effective ways to reach a resolution is to say, “You’re always like this.”
Because this phrase is all about taking one action you dislike – your partner didn’t wash the dishes after dinner, for example – and turning it into a whole personality trait – your partner never cleans around the house because they’re inherently messy.
“You’re always like this” doesn’t solve the issue of the unwashed dishes. It only upsets your partner and triggers them to start recounting all the instances when they did, in fact, clean.
It generalizes, which puts the other person in a defensive position. Now they can’t just say, “Oh, I’ve forgotten to wash the dishes this evening and I’m sorry.”
No. Instead, they are in the midst of a whole defense strategy to protect their ego.
“What do you mean I’m always like this?! I take the trash out every week! I cook more than you do! I hoovered the carpet yesterday after you left crumbs everywhere!”
When you’re pointing out an issue to someone, always focus on the specific problem at hand. Don’t generalize.
6) “No offense, but…”
Is there anything more offensive than “no offense, but”?
Well, maybe all those offensive things that come right after could be a contender.
When you’re excellent at communication, it means you’re treating the other person with respect and an open mind. And both of those things are very much at odds with “no offense, but”.
If you disagree with someone, you can say, “That’s a good point, but I also think that…” or “I agree with X, but Y is a bit more complicated because…”
Acknowledge that there is some truth to a specific point, and then explain why you disagree with the rest of the statement. This way, you’ll validate what the other person’s saying while also stating your own opinion.
“What?! You mean to tell me that ‘sorry’ is bad communication? I thought apologies were good!”
They are good – if they’re done properly. The point of an apology isn’t to say “sorry” and expect the other person to forgive you immediately.
It’s to express a genuine change of mind. And to do that, “sorry” just doesn’t cut it.
Try: “I’m very sorry. I now understand why you felt X and why my actions were Y. I’d be hurt, too. I won’t do it again.”
In these four sentences, you’ve got four different elements that all make up a great apology:
The “sorry” itself (adding “I’m” makes it less casual – much better than just “sorry”)
Rational understanding and a lesson learned
Emotional understanding and empathy
Behavioral change going forward
Ta-da! There you have it. A recipe for the perfect apology.
8) “Blah, blah, blah”
Back in my teens, I used to pull a face and mumble “blah, blah, blah” when I disagreed with someone but no counterarguments came to mind.
And, well, what can I say? This one’s just childish.
Don’t do it.