15 phrases you should stop using (and what to say instead)

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Let’s face it. Communication is tricky. You can say something with the best of intentions, only to have someone instantly take offense.

The words that come out of your mouth reveal a lot about who you are.

If you use the right words, you can come across smart, empathetic, and logical.

But if you say the wrong words, you can offend others and make yourself look bad.

The truth is, we’ve probably all said something that we’ve regretted.

It’s not a good feeling when your words don’t communicate what you really mean.

In this article, I’m going to go over common things people say in public that is almost always interpreted badly by others.

Avoid these phrases and you’ll be well on your way to giving off a better impression with your words.

1. “It’s not fair!”

Blurting out the words, “it’s not fair” can make you look like a complaining victim.

That’s not how you want to be perceived.

Life is tough for everyone and it’s important to take responsibility for what happens in your life.

Look, I’m not denying that life is unfair. It absolutely is.

But while you might have drawn the short straw in some situations, the people surrounding you don’t know that.

All they’ll see is a complainer who doesn’t know how to take responsibility for themselves.

It’s also a phrase that won’t benefit you, either. Being a victim won’t get you anywhere.

Focus your attention on what you can control, rather than complaining about what you can’t.

2. “You look tired”

How does it feel when someone tells you that you look tired?

It doesn’t uplift you, I’m guessing.

What someone is really saying is that the problems in your life are on display for everyone else to see.

Instead, phrase your statement in a different way. Ask them how they’re going or if everything is okay.

It’s better to ask a genuine question rather than accusing them of looking tired.

3. “For your” statements

Classic examples of this phrase are when people say, “You look great for your age”, or, “For a woman, you’re really successful”.

It’s like a back-handed compliment, isn’t it?

Gender and age biases still exist. We all know they do. And the person you’re talking to is probably aware of such biases. Even mentioning them is offensive.

Don’t use a qualifier. Just compliment the person.

4. “As I said before…”

You may have said it before, but not everyone is going to remember everything you’ve said.

You’re not that important.

And all this phrase implies is that you’re insulted for having to repeat yourself.

Again, and this is going to be a trend throughout this article, it just makes you look like a victim.

Don’t get insulted or frustrated if someone doesn’t listen. Calmly repeat yourself and convey the message as best you can.

The truth is:

Maybe it’s because you use passive-aggressive remarks like “as I’ve said before” that people don’t remember what you say.

5. “You never..” or “You always…”

When someone uses, “you always” or “you never”, you know they’re throwing accusations and blame.

The truth is, nobody is always anything. Words like always and never cause a disagreement to escalate quickly.

Self-control is important here. Take a moment to slow, take a deep breath and remember the humanness of the person you’re talking to. No one is perfect and neither are you.

6. “Good luck”

This one may be a little controversial but hear us out.

When someone says “good luck” they’re saying that the outcome isn’t in the person’s hands and is subject to outside forces.

“Good luck” is obviously well-intentioned but it may not be the message you want to communicate.

Saying something like, “You got this” or “I know you have what it takes” is better encouragement than saying “good luck”.

7. “It doesn’t matter to me”

When someone seeks out your opinion, this is among the worst phrases you can reply with.

Saying “it doesn’t matter” shows that you don’t really care because it’s of no consequence to you, or you can’t be bothered giving them your time to talk about it.

If someone asks you a question, then be respectful and try to help them out.

If you haven’t got time, then be honest and say you haven’t got the time to answer the question right now.

8. “With all due respect…”

Are you really showing respect when you say, “with all due respect”?

It is extremely rare a positive statement follows “with all due respect”.

This is why people become immediately defensive and on guard when they hear the words “with all due respect”.

If you want to disagree with someone, first acknowledge what they have said, and then state why you disagree.

Using “with all due respect” draws focus away from the topic of conversation because emotions get in the way.

Instead, use “I am concerned…”

People rarely attack you when you start this way and they want to hear what you have to say.

9. “I told you so”

“I told you so” is the equivalent of kicking someone when they’re down.

It’s a negative and counterproductive way of saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong.”

Even if you were right, what good does it do to rub it in their face?

Be the bigger person, even if you know you’re right and even if you badly want to express that you were right.

Don’t. Simply offer your support and listen.

10. “I give up”

Look, we’ve all said this from time to time. Maybe it’s because of a terrible boss, a difficult project, or an extremely hard-to-work-with-coworker.

But uttering “I give up” implies that you won’t get through this.

You will. You are much stronger, smarter, and capable than you can imagine.

And you should try no matter how difficult the situation is. Giving up doesn’t help you nor does it instill much confidence in you from the people around you.

“I can do this” are the only words you need.

11. “This may be a silly idea…”

If someone starts their sentence with “this may be a silly idea” then you know they probably haven’t got much confidence.

Already before they’ve started expressing their idea they’ve eroded their credibility.

The truth is this:

If you’re not confident in what you’re saying, no one else will be either.

And if you really are not sure about what you’re going to say, then it’s probably better not to say it.

You could say “I don’t have that information right now, but I’ll find out and get right back to you.”

12. “I’ll try”

If you say I’ll try” it sounds like you lack confidence in your ability to execute the task.

Take responsibility and believe in yourself.

If someone asks you to do something, then commit to doing it and get it done, or tell them no if you feel like you can’t get it done.

13. “It’s not my fault”

Try not to cast blame on others. Be accountable.

If you had a role – no matter how small – in something that went wrong then take ownership of it.

If you clearly didn’t have any role, then calmly explain the facts and reveal why that’s the case.

“It’s not my fault” just sounds defensive.

14. “No offense, but..”

Similar to “with all due respect” this is a phrase that immediately makes someone feel uncomfortable and defensive.

After all, how many times have you heard a sentence start with that, only to be followed by something offensive?

Instead of using this phrase, try not to say something offensive at all.

You don’t want to put someone on the defensive before you’ve made your point.

15. “This might be a stupid question”

This statement suggests you lack confidence. If you’re not confident in the question you’re about to ask, then some people might not take your question seriously.

Don’t be afraid of asking questions, no matter how silly you might think they are.

Bruce Lee said it best:

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.”

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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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