We’ve all been there: One minute you’re having a perfectly normal and even enjoyable conversation when suddenly, it turns into a sour exchange.
You’re left wondering, “What was that all about?” and “Was it something I said?”
That’s what we’ll explore in this article because language plays a crucial role in shaping the tone and outcome of our interactions.
Whether it’s with friends, family, or co-workers, if you want to keep a conversation positive, you have to be mindful of your words.
Let’s take a look at 13 common phrases to avoid:
Let’s get started:
1) “You’re wrong.”
I don’t know about you but I certainly don’t like being told that I’m “wrong”.
It’s very blunt and not at all constructive.
Here’s the thing, when you start a sentence with, “You’re wrong”, chances are you’re immediately going to put the other person on the defensive.
So how do you let the other person know that you don’t agree with them?
Instead of outright dismissing their opinions, try saying, “I see where you’re coming from, but I believe that…”
2) “I told you so.”
Come on, even you don’t like hearing “I told you so”.
As satisfying as it may be for you to say, it’s not helpful and comes across as condescending.
Just think how bad the person is already feeling. They’re probably embarrassed they didn’t listen to you in the first place and they’re just waiting for you to rub their nose in it.
But you won’t, not if you want to keep the conversation positive.
Tempting as it may be, you will resist the urge to utter those annoying four words.
You’ll replace them with something like, “That sucks. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” and thus express your support and willingness to help.
3) “That’s not my problem.”
Technically, it may not be your problem, but when someone shares their concerns with you or asks for your help, responding with, “That’s not my problem” is quite hurtful and dismissive.
Think about it: They’re being vulnerable with you because they trust you and that kind of negative response shows a lack of consideration and empathy.
If you want to keep the conversation positive, try saying something along the lines of, “I’m not sure how I can help, but I’m here to listen.”
4) “You always” or “You never”
In my experience, using absolutes like “always” and “never” usually leads to generalized accusations and often turns into a fight.
Focus on the situation at hand and address the specific behaviors or instances that you have a problem with at the moment.
In short: Don’t dredge up the past.
5) “It’s not a big deal.”
How would you know?
We all experience things differently, so while something may not seem like that big of a deal to you, to the other person it could be all-consuming.
The truth is that when you say, “It’s not a big deal” you’re minimizing someone’s feelings or concerns.
What’s more, you’re making them feel invalidated.
Acknowledge their feelings and offer support instead.
6) “Calm down.”
Turns out that telling someone to “Calm down” when they’re upset actually has the opposite effect.
Don’t be surprised to hear, “Don’t tell me to calm down!” as they get even more worked up.
Now, you’re probably wondering, “How am I supposed to talk to someone hysterical?”
By remaining calm and choosing your words carefully.
Here’s something you can say instead, “I understand you’re upset; let’s talk about it.”
7) “That’s just how I am.”
No one is saying that you shouldn’t be your authentic self.
However, using this phrase to excuse hurtful and sh***y behavior is most certainly not going to result in a positive and constructive conversation.
If you’ve hurt someone, you need to be accountable for your behavior. Let them know that you’re open to self-improvement instead of simply saying, “That’s just how I am”.
You can be a nicer and better person and still be yourself, you know?
8) “I don’t care.”
I think it’s kind of obvious but I still need to mention that this is a phrase you should avoid if you want to keep the conversation positive.
When you tell someone that you don’t care, you’re telling them that you’re indifferent to how they feel and what they’re going to do.
And guess what?
Nothing makes a person feel smaller and less important than hearing that.
Why not try and put yourself in their shoes? Summon up your empathy and show some interest in what they’re going through by saying, “I’d like to hear more about it.”
9) “You should have known better.”
Way to kick someone when they’re already down!
Obviously, if they had known better they wouldn’t have gotten themselves into the situation they’re in.
They already feel bad so blaming someone for not meeting your expectations is in no way helpful.
If you have some advice for how they can proceed in the future, then offer guidance. And if you don’t have anything useful to say, it’s best not to say anything at all.
10) “This is boring.”
News flash: Don’t tell someone that talking to them or taking part in an activity they chose is boring, not unless you want to hurt them or get into an argument.
Instead of making them feel uninteresting and unimportant, consider more constructive ways to steer the conversation in a more engaging direction or suggest alternative activities.
11) “You’re overreacting.”
Remember how I said that we all experience things differently?
Well, telling someone they’re “overreacting” minimizes their emotions and invalidates their feelings.
That’s why it’s important to keep in mind that what may seem like an overreaction to one person may be entirely valid to another.
If you want to keep a conversation positive, show empathy by saying something like, “I can see that this is really upsetting you. Is there anything I can do?”
12) “I don’t want to hear it.”
Listen up, rejecting someone’s desire to share their thoughts or feelings with, “I don’t want to hear it” is just plain rude and hurtful. It’s certainly not something you say if you want to keep the conversation positive.
Encourage open communication by saying, “I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this.”, ask for more information, and offer your perspective.
And if the topic is uncomfortable or distressing for you, politely communicate your boundaries.
For example, “I get that you want to talk about this, but it’s a bit difficult for me right now. Can we talk about something else?”
13) “You’re too sensitive.”
I really hate being told I’m too sensitive, it makes me want to retaliate with, “And you’re a robot!”
The truth is that dismissing someone’s sensitivity makes them feel criticized – like it’s a bad thing to have feelings.
It’s important to acknowledge and respect that some people are more sensitive and others less so and that we don’t all react the same to various situations.
You wanna keep things positive? Acknowledge their feelings and offer support.