Written Rambles

7 Phrases You Should Never Say to Someone

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Though I wouldn’t normally recommend taking advice from a talking rabbit, Thumper from Disney’s Bambi knew what he was talking about when he said this quote back in 1942. (That was 70 years ago, in case you needed another reminder that you’re getting old.) While it’s true that people can be childish and obnoxious sometimes, that doesn’t make it okay to put them down with derogatory phrases or words. There are some basic phrases in particular which I find “off limits” in regular conversation, either because they’re demeaning, intentionally (or unintentionally) hurtful, or just plain ridiculous.

1. Shame on you!

Though these three little words may not seem very toxic, especially when you say it jokingly to your friend after she fondles someone she’s not supposed to or to your cat when she leaves you a half-dead “present” on your doorstep, in reality, they can cause a severe amount of damage to a person’s self-esteem. According to Thomas Scheff, professor of sociology at UC Santa Barbara, shame is linked so closely with self-worth that repressing it can lead to acts of aggression and, on a larger scale, war or familicide. That’s right, familicide. Next time you’re caught stealing a cookie from the cookie jar against your parent’s orders, try to laugh off the shame before you end up murdering everyone you’ve ever loved. No pressure, though.

2. Grow up.

This one’s my own personal pet peeve for a number of reasons but first and foremost, because the negative connotations attached to “grow up” suggest that maintaining one’s youth is more than just silly; it’s shameful. While I understand the phrase is used to condemn immaturity, which can be different from “youthfulness,” that doesn’t change the fact that the person using this phrase does so to gain the upper hand in the conversation. By saying “grow up,” you are suggesting that you are grown up yourself and thus more qualified to judge the situation at hand. You’re essentially demoting the other person to an inferior “younger” position, despite the fact that kids are cooler than adults around 70 percent of the time (which is still passing).

And we wouldn’t want that, now would we?

3. If you really loved me, you would…

Stop right there. While it’s true that love is one of life’s greatest gifts, there are always limits to what people will do for it. Even Meatloaf knows that. When you challenge someone with this phrase, you’re asking them to demonstrate their love according to your terms. Jesus didn’t have to “prove” himself to anyone to gain respect, so neither should you. (Well, I mean, he eventually did with his whole “turning water into wine” stunt, but he didn’t have to.)

4. Because I said so!

If I woke up with 100 fingers on each hand with 100 fingers on each of those fingers, I would still not be able to count the amount of times I heard this when I was growing up. In fact, it’s most parents go-to reprimand when a child starts questioning their orders but according to some, it’s also the least effective. Following a command with “Because I said so!” instead of an actual reason can tip the scales of a parent-child relationship, turning the parent into a ruler demanding unquestionable power instead of an ally trying to impart a valuable lesson and establish respect. Unless your child has disregarded all 20 reasons you gave to not stick his action figure in the blender, try to avoid this exclamatory statement.

Every mom ever.

5. Why can’t you be more like…

“Why don’t you go to college like your older sister? Why don’t you get a job like your brother? Why don’t you try raising a flock of wild bald eagles like your cousin Jimmy did?” It’s natural to want to draw comparisons between your children and other people,but doing so can also establish unfair precedents for the child in question. If children are always being compared to an older sibling or relative, they never have the chance to explore their own strengths and can end up making rash decisions to differentiate themselves later on, like joining the circus or pursuing a career as a professional Marilyn Manson impersonator.

6. You were too good for *so-and-so.*

This phrase is almost always said in an attempt to be comforting but down the line, it can end up having embarrassing consequences. For example, if you say this to your best friend after she gets dumped by her boyfriend and a few days later, they get back together, she’ll forever know that you disapprove of her significant other, and your future obligatory Maid of Honor speech will suddenly become a whole lot trickier.

7. Just calm down.

“Just calm down” is another well-meaning phrase that can produce a negative reaction when used the wrong way (aka, any way that makes it come off as condescending). If possible, avoid saying this phrase to angry parents, people with anxiety, The Hulk, people binge watching dramatic TV shows, and women going into labor. In fact, that covers most human beings on the planet, so it might be easier to just not say it at all.

While some of these phrases can certainly be acceptable in certain situations, most of the time, they should be kept to yourself to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. What phrases would you add to the list? Do you disagree with any of my picks?

Featured image via ShutterStock

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=550561201 Monica L Supra

    A guy I dated once told me that he wants to date a “solid 8/10 girl”, because he would never listen to what a 9 or a 10 was saying, he would just stare at her. Needless to say, that was the end of us dating.
    I told him later that “grading” someone according to looks is stupid and hurtful, so I would add that to the list of things never to say to someone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=558810942 Millie Minor-Gibson

    I would like to add “you make me sick.” to that list. In my younger days I said this not realizing it was hurting a friend, so I stopped. Also “that’s retarded.” Just don’t.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1835200235 Dylan Gipson

      Sorry I have to comment. Whats wrong with thats retarded? I hate political correctness. You say thats retarded people get mad so we stop and change to thats gay. Then people are mad again because it offended someone and they killed them self. There was something else wrong mentally if “thats so gay” made them commit suicide. Sorry but people now a days are way to sensitive. Did you not get told sticks and stones may break my bones but WORDS WILL NEVER HURT ME. No oh thats why your so butthurt.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001806173582 Morgan Acheson

    If someone tells me to “relax” I lose it hahaha

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005615047706 Christine Einsel

    There’s no pressure like someone saying “no pressure”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=513381681 Liz Banks

    Tellin me to calm down or to stop yelling just makes the situation worse with me especially if I’m no yelling. Then I will make a scene and yell.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1789165348 Serena Vlavianos

    “With all due respect”… Then proceed to give a disrespectful explanation. Similar to “Don’t get mad, but…” Then proceed to say what horrible thing you did or found out happened. The list can really go on and on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1065441625 Aakarshika Singh

    The worse I feel is when some one says “I TOLD YOU SO”. The poor person knows what they were doing and are pissed, sad or just something about it and on top of that if someone says “I told you so” it just make the situation worse and the person starts having more guilty as there were chances he/she could have avoided that situation. HATE THAT phrase

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000081847051 Scott Stevenson

    The one that gets me is when customer service people say “I understand that you’re upset”. It’s an attempt to mollify me without having to recognize the important part: _why_ I’m upset. I rank it with “If you were offended, I apologize” as the top “non-apology apology”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1761624313 Jess Patmore

    I agree with all of them, except for “grow up”. I think it’s an effective way to tell someone they need to take more responsibility, as an adult would. It’s harsh, but sometimes that’s necessary…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=787252067 Amber Ritter Ochoa

    “Don’t take things so personal”- the worst. If you didn’t mean for me to take it personal, then why’d you say it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007623252620 Bee Dia

    i once said grow up to one of my closest friends after a pretty bad fight years ago and yeah it cut her pretty awfully. we’ve since made up but i don’t regret having said it because it was true at the time. she was acting like a child at the time. whatevs. use it wisely and sparingly, i guess.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000207819161 Christopher Perdigao

    To me “get over it” is worse than “just calm down”. It shows a lack of empathy for the agitated person. Calming down is a gradual process and telling someone to get over it is like jamming on the brakes when you’re doing 60. I can’t think of a single instance where using that phrase would end well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=677359022 Jeff Krahling

    When someone says, “Not to sound racist, but….”, I just tune them out from that moment forward because everything that follows is going to be ignorant.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003662526789 John Navarro

    it’s true words are more hurtful because you can’t take it back , once said it’s done, i inturn feel a person is a person ,, if someone needs to better himself by judging others, they have the problem . if you can confront a person with their actions then attacking a person when there back is turn, makes you the one who isn’t true to them self.. so pertent your that person and how would you like being told things that should or must be told to a person in private or not at all.. just remember words hurt..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=595605479 Pete Jackson

    ‘Because i said so’ is also the reason religion and christian is still thriving in the US.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000485151476 Lauren Yuile

    “No offence, but… “, would be in my list. It’s used as an excuse to offend people, for the person acknowledges that the following phrase can be hurtful but what the hell: let’s ruin someone’s day. Even if this phrase is followed by a compliment on my cooking, I’d still feel hurt, sad, defensive and would want to throw flour into the bully’s face.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001011075342 Claire Patzman

    “What’s wrong with you?” will always be a phrase that I hate more than many others.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=520266892 Rachael Jones

    I can’t STAND people telling me that I’ve “really come out of my shell”. It’s such a backhanded compliment and makes me feel like I’m about 10 years old!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1173516414 Hayley Byrnes

    I absolutely hate when people say “I don’t think you do know” when I answer “I know” to something. People (especially my mother) underestimating my intelligence pisses me off more than anything. I’m getting all A’s for a reason.

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