8 phrases genuinely empathetic people always avoid

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

You can tell a lot about a person based on the words that come out of their mouths.

Of course, context matters a lot, too.

After all, someone can use “bad words” such as sh*t and still be the kindest.  And someone can use “good words” such as “sweetheart” and still be an asshole.

But there are just some phrases that, no matter the context or intention, often cause harm.

In this article, I’ll give you the 8 phrases genuinely empathetic people always avoid…and tell you why they avoid them exactly.

1) “Just think positive!”

When we’re feeling really down,

When we’re panicking,

When we’re feelingjust overwhelmed by everything…

The last thing we need is hearing someone say “Just think positive”.

This phrase doesn’t help—like, at all. 

Instead it makes you want to scream at the top of your voice “Don’t you think I tried?!”

If anything, it just shames the person who’s already suffering.

This tops our list because it can be especially harmful for people who are going through severe trauma, having suicidal ideations, or are struggling with their mental health. 

This is the reason why highly empathic people would never utter this phrase—not even to someone who’s a drag to be around.

They are aware that thoughts and feelings cannot be switched off by simply using magic words.

What do they do instead? 

They listen and try to understand the other person’s feelings.

They recognize that everyone goes through difficult emotions.

They know that the more the person feels understood and heard, the easier it is to let the negativity out of their system.

So instead of forcing them to suddenly shift, they affirm their feelings without getting dragged into the negative emotions.

 And most of all they never ever give dangerous and useless advice like “Just think positive!”

2) “Excuses, excuses”

When you’re late because you got stuck in traffic,

When you can’t help with a project because you’re sick,

When you didn’t return their call because you fell asleep,

They won’t hate you for it. Really!

And of course, they won’t use them as an attack on your character.

They will acknowledge your explanations, and not treat them as just mere excuses.

I remember how hurtful it was when a friend said I always flake and give excuses when I suddenly have to cancel even though I explained as best as I could that I have a chronic illness.

A person high on empathy would never do this. 

Instead, they’d trust you and even ask if YOU’RE alright.

They know that life happens…and no one is deliberately trying to ruin things.

3) “If I can do it, so can you!”

We have different strengths and weaknesses.

A highly empathetic person knows this too well.

And so, you’d never hear them utter nonsense like “If I can do it, you can do it, too!”


Because it’s condescending…and self-centered, really—it’s more like “look at me!,” rather than, “I see you. I hear you.”

What makes it even worse is when they lack awareness of their privilege—like someone whose parents paid the downpayment for their house or gave them start-up capital.

It’s hard not to shout that unlike them, half of your salary goes to rent.

Rather than feeling inspired as they intended, you suddenly find yourself defending why you can’t do it like they did. 

This phrase never works because what is needed in the moment is someone to witness and recognize that you’re struggling. 

So unless you’re specifically asked how you overcame something, you have to zip it.

4) “It’s not that hard”

This is pretty much like “If I can do it, so can you!”

Insensitive people think that as long as it’s not hard for them, then it shouldn’t be hard for others, too.

They say things like “We all have two legs and two hands.” or “We all have 24 hours in a day.”

They think those who say something is hard are just being lazy…that they’re not actually trying.

What’s worse is it implies the other person is stupid if they are in fact, finding it hard despite their best efforts.

You’d never hear an empath say this line—ever. 

If someone shares how they are having difficulty with something, they’d listen instead of gaslight them.

They know that those who struggle deserve some grace and compassion, not dismissiveness.

5) “Crying won’t solve anything”

Well, don’t we all know this?

But somehow, insensitive people think that those who cry are not aware of this fact.

Worse, they are implying that you’re being childish—that you’re simply wasting time and being weak.

The thing is, crying is actually the body’s natural mechanism to release stress, trauma, and overwhelming emotions. 

Empaths know from experience the benefits of a good cry. 

And so, they say, “Let it all out” or “Just be with your feelings.”

Rather than suppressing grief, sadness, and fear, they support and give full permission to let it through.

Genuinely empathetic people know that no goal can be achieved and no challenge can be solved when someone is drowning in negative emotions.

6) “You complain a lot, don’t you?”

Genuinely empathetic people won’t ever shame you when you are overwhelmed with heavy emotions. 

If you are struggling with work, they’ll listen.

If your relationship with your boyfriend is on the rocks, they’ll commiserate with you.

Sure, you may be annoying to some, but an empath would be more tolerant of you.

This is because they know that complaining is simply an expression of pain, grief, and discontent and there is nothing wrong with it.

They’ll also try to cheer you up without overdoing it.

They’ll say something like “Hey, I know you’re having a bad day again, how about we go for ice cream and talk about it?”

And somehow even in the midst of complaining, you suddenly find yourself laughing and making jokes and it suddenly doesn’t feel as heavy as it was when you started.

This is because highly empathic people are often especially gifted at lifting spirits subtly and they’ll never let anyone turn into Negative Nancy-Not on their watch!

7) “Toughen up!”

“You need to help yourself!”

“Don’t be such a pussy.”

No matter what, tough “love” isn’t in the repertoire of a highly empathic person.

With them, you bet you can show your soft underbelly and remove the masks you wear to look strong.

With them, you’re safe to show your woundedness, your inner child, and even scorned lover. 

They know that the world is harsh enough and what most people need is a soft and gentle place to land.

They’d tell you that it’s alright to rest, to cry (that it’s not a sign of weakness)…and that you have plenty of time to heal your wounds before you go back to the arena.

8)  “Okay, and?”

This is a phrase often uttered by insensitive people to shame you for making a big deal out of something.

You tell them, while palpitating, that you met your ex with his new partner. 

They’d raise their brows and ask “Okay, and?” as if you’re obviously not supposed to feel anything because they’re your ex already.

You tell them you are worried about something.

They say “Okay, and?” as if to say “Then why are you complaining instead of doing something about it?!”

Genuinely empathetic people would never say these phrases because they have high emotional intelligence

They never force you to rush figuring out how you’re feeling and what to do about it.

They’ll give you the space to feel through what you want to do.

Highly empathic people know that if you’re not ready, forcing you to rush through it can be more damaging than helpful.

Final thoughts

Whether you’re reading this to know how to be a more empathetic person or you want to find the empaths to surround yourself with support, these phrases will guide you.

And if you realize that you’ve used one or more of these phrases and are now cringing about it, be kind to yourself. You probably didn’t know better. 

While some people are born genuinely empathetic, with a little mindfulness and practice, we can evolve and learn better ways of relating to each other

So remember the phrases and always avoid them until it becomes so natural to you that you don’t even think about it.

Sooner than later, you’ll be one of those with the magic gift to transform dark clouds of negativity into rainbows and sunshine. 

Did you like my article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.

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

12 signs a man is deeply attracted to your personality, according to psychology

13 signs a man really loves having you in his life, according to psychology