18 of the Worst Things to Say in a Conversation

We should all think before we speak.

Posted Jul 12, 2019

Why is it that there are some people who everyone seems to enjoy being around? What is their secret? After many years of talking to people of all ages in my therapy office and meeting all sorts of individuals in my life, I believe I have at least one of the answers. Some people just know what to say to make others feel good while others always seem to say the wrong thing. Do you know how it is when you find someone's sweet spot and say just the right thing that is both soothing and encouraging? It's the best feeling, isn't it? On the other hand, you know that feeling that you get when someone says exactly the wrong thing that leaves you feeling frustrated and irritated? I'm sure you do—and that you have very likely said things like that to others. You may not be aware of what you are saying that is having a negative impact on others, though, so I am here today to help you with that.

Here are the 18 statements that will ruin conversations and leave your partner in conversation feeling badly, irritated, and very likely misunderstood. And you will either instantly wish that you could shove the words right back into your mouth or perhaps not even be aware of their impact.

1. Calm down. 

2. Relax.

3. You are overreacting.

4. You are too sensitive.

5. Don't cry.

6. It isn't personal.

7. Don't take it so seriously.

8. Someone's life is worse than yours.

All of the above comments are invalidating and can make someone feel even more upset. There is nothing calming about being told that you should calm down. And, frankly, most things are personal, right? None of the above comments are helpful. I suggest that just listening would be a much better alternative to any of the above statements. Are you with me?

And how about the following three comments?

9. It was meant to be.

10. Everything happens for a reason.

11. He (or they, or she) is in a better place.

Honestly? Someone has just experienced a loss or a very stressful life event and you are, consciously or not, making light of it. Again, letting them talk and listening to their grief is a much better alternative.

12. Whatever.

13. It must be hormonal.

14. When I was your age...

15. Good luck with that.

The above four comments also will fail to hit anyone's sweet spot. They are dismissive of personal experiences and feelings. They are the equivalent of saying, "Your personal experience is not that meaningful, interesting, or relevant." Ouch.

16. With all due respect.

This is particularly annoying because what follows is often simply a statement of disagreement and makes most of us sigh as we wait for it. Right?

17. I'll get back to you.

Ugh. Sometimes the person will get back to you, but in too many cases, it simply means that you are not a priority.

And, how about this one?:

18. How does that make you feel?

Totally boring comment. If you are paying attention, you should know exactly how the other person feels.

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