Have you ever found yourself unintentionally upsetting someone during a conversation?
But here’s one thing to keep in mind:
When someone is offended, it doesn’t automatically make you an offensive individual.
People can still be offended despite the best of your intentions.
Taking offense is something very subjective and personal. What offends me may not offend you, and vice versa.
Similarly, while the following phrases may not bother you, they can be like daggers to a person that’s quick to take offense.
That said, let’s dive into 25 phrases to steer clear off around someone who gets easily offended:
1) “No offense, but…”
I don’t know why people still say this.
Think about it:
Starting your sentence with this is like saying, “Brace yourself; offensive remark coming right up,” or “I know I’m about to say something that might hurt you, but I’ll say it anyway”.
Also, does making this disclaimer magically erase the potentially negative impact of the words that come after it? It doesn’t, right?
So whether you’re talking to someone prone to offense or not, improve your communication skills by ditching this phrase altogether from your vocabulary.
2) “Don’t take it personally…”
You’ve probably used this when talking to someone about feedback or criticisms that they’ve gotten. And I’m guilty of using it several times with colleagues and friends, too.
But here’s what we didn’t know then:
When we say this to easily offended individuals, we risk invalidating their feelings, making them feel as if they don’t have the right to be upset in the first place.
3) “It was just a joke…”
We often use this phrase to backtrack a remark that didn’t go as expected.
Whether we meant for it to be a joke or not, don’t use these words, especially with overly sensitive people.
It can minimize the person’s feelings.
Plus, it also makes you look like you have no accountability for the hurt caused by your words.
4) “You’re too sensitive…”
Why thank you, Captain Obvious.
You already know they’re sensitive, so why pick on their reactions even more?
Saying this only dismisses the other person’s feelings, and it can also make them feel guilty for reacting the way they usually do.
5) “It’s not a big deal…”
If you catch yourself about to say this to someone upset or worried about something, bite your lip.
You see, saying this can make someone feel like their feelings aren’t valid or, worse, that you don’t respect their feelings at all.
6) “Others have it worse…”
When someone sensitive to remarks opens up to you about their personal difficulties, avoid this phrase at all costs.
Saying this is like belittling their struggles.
A quick reminder:
The existence of greater suffering doesn’t invalidate someone’s hardship, no matter how small they may seem from your point of view.
7) “At least you have a…”
Responding with “at least you have a job” or “at least you have a mother” when someone is trying to tell you about their work or family problems is a no-no, especially when dealing with sensitive people.
But why is that?
Remember that they’re more sensitive, so they may already be feeling vulnerable when they express their concerns to you.
So, saying this only aggravates their vulnerability, making the person feel guilty for having legitimate concerns.
More than that, it may make them less likely to open up about their feelings in the future.
8) “It could be worse…”
Like number 7, this is another no-no phrase for someone who has been through a hard time.
Not only does it belittle their feelings, but it also overlooks their experience, too.
9) “Stop complaining…”
When dealing with someone who takes things to heart, don’t tell them to stop complaining while confiding their feelings of unhappiness to you.
Saying it this way only makes them feel dismissed and unsupported.
Instead, try rephrasing it to, “Is there something I can do to help improve the situation?”
Doing this shifts the conversation from a negative to a positive tone by moving the focus away from the problem and towards a solution.
10) “Just snap out of it…”
If someone overly sensitive is having a hard time moving on, don’t rush them out of their feelings.
You may be doing it because you don’t want to see them hurting. But telling them to snap out of it can do more damage.
This approach is very dismissive and inconsiderate of their overall mental and emotional well-being.
11) “Everything happens for a reason…”
You might think you’re being helpful by comforting someone with these words.
But keep this in mind:
Saying this may be perceived by the easily offended person as trivializing their pain.
In this case, it may be more comforting to simply listen and say nothing instead.
12) “Don’t worry, be happy…”
This is another common comforting phrase.
But let me tell you why it’s not a good idea to use these with easily offended individuals:
They might view it as you oversimplifying their emotions or problems.
Why not try “I hope things improve for you soon” instead?
13) “Don’t stress…”
Like the previous phrase, easily upset people may not hear this in a positive light.
Instead, it may come off to them as you dismiss their genuine feelings of stress.
14) “Just relax…”
When someone is quite sensitive, telling them to relax when they are dealing with anxiety or tension may not be the most helpful approach.
Like the previous phrases, this makes them feel unsupported, and it oversimplifies their experience.
So aim for a more empathetic and understanding language instead.
15) “You’re fine…”
There’s nothing more dismissive than telling someone they’re fine when they explicitly share their struggles with you.
And this is true for everybody, thin-skinned or not.
16) “Calm down…”
When someone is visibly upset, telling them to calm down is ineffective.
Here’s what the experts say on this:
According to leadership consultant Dr Susan Bernstein, all it does is escalate the situation further, making the person feel patronized or shamed.
17) “Don’t cry…”
I’m relatively thick-skinned, but if you tell me this, I’d probably snap at you.
Here’s my stance on this:
Regardless of how close you are to someone, who are you to tell them to suppress their emotional reactions?
18) “Stop being so negative…”
I’m all about positivity, but please be mindful when people express their doubts or worries to you.
Asking them to stop is asking to telling them that these concerns are exaggerated or, worse, that their feelings about these are invalid.
19) “Just be positive…”
Positivity becomes toxic when it is imposed on people undergoing genuine problems.
This toxic positivity can make people who are easily upset feel ignored because it tells them they should only be happy and not worry about their real struggles.
20) “You’re exaggerating…”
Accusing someone of overstating their problems or feelings is a must-not-say to anyone. Period.
Here’s where it gets worse:
If you say this to someone easily offended, it might cause them to withdraw from open communication, which can be even more detrimental for them.
21) “You should be over it by now…”
It should go without saying, but here’s why you shouldn’t say this especially to someone that quickly takes offense:
This phrase places a timeline on their emotional healing, which is different for everyone.
So please respect the person’s healing process and refrain from offensive comments like this.
22) “Money can’t buy happiness…”
This might sound like a random inspirational quote to you.
But you probably want to refrain from using it around someone that’s easily offended, especially when they’re going through financial struggles.
Let me explain:
When you say this, you’re minimizing their financial stress and the real impact it is having on their lives.
23) “Playing the victim card…”
The use of the term ‘victim card’ suggests that the person is manipulatively using their problems to gain sympathy or advantage.
Why is it insensitive to use this phrase, especially when speaking to people who are easily offended?
It can hurt their feelings by making their problems seem unreal or unimportant, and it might also stop them from talking about things that are truly bothering them.
24) “You’re so OCD…”
Let’s be honest:
This is a common phrase thrown around, especially when someone is meticulous in their ways. But you may want to rethink saying that to anyone – easily offended or not.
What’s often ignored is this:
OCD is a serious medical condition. And using the term casually can trivialize it and stigmatize those who genuinely suffer from it.
25) “That’s lame…”
Here’s another common one used in casual conversations.
But what if I told you that the term ‘lame’ historically referred to physical disabilities?
So essentially, every time you use the word ‘lame,’ you’re downplaying the difficulties faced by people with disabilities.
Plus, you’re also sort of reinforcing discriminatory mindsets.
Hopefully, that’s enough to convince you to never use the phrase again.
Words have power
There you go, 25 phrases to avoid saying around people who easily get offended.
So, what’s the takeaway?
Think before you speak.
Words can sting, and for those who are easily offended, they can stick around long after you’ve forgotten them.