Have you ever had a small disagreement with a friend that turned into a disaster? Have you ever tried to share your thoughts with your spouse and felt that you were not being heard? And how about saying something that you regretted as soon as the words left your mouth?
I have found myself in such situations more than enough times to learn the hard way that words are not to be taken lightly.
In fact, I believe that it is a skill to be able to say the right thing at the right time. But it is a talent to leave wrong things unsaid.
Here are 10 Things that are better left unsaid, especially when talking to the people that you like, respect or have to get along with.
1. “I told you so”
This is a very tempting remark that we often can not stop ourselves from saying (especially when we did warn the person about the consequences.) But before you open your mouth, count up to ten and think about why you want to say it? Do you want to bring the other person even lower, by pointing out what an idiot they were for not listening to you? It is kind of insensitive, don’t you think?
When we share our troubles with people, we do not want our mistakes rubbed in our face. We are looking for compassion and support. Keep this in mind the next time you feel like saying “I told you so”, and say “I think you are right.”
Oh-oh… This really is a cussword that needs to be excluded from any successful person’s vocabulary. It is a rude way of saying to a person that you really do not care about what has been said. A few “w”- words and the conversation is pretty much over.
3. “It does not make any sense”
Be careful about using this statement, when saying that you did not quite understand something, because what the other person hears is “You are talking nonsense”. There are two possible reactions to this statement: 1) at best, your interlocutor will patiently try to explain their point of view again, 2) at worst, they will vent their irritation on you and, believe me, you are not going to enjoy it.
Why take the risk, when you can simply say something along the lines of, “Would you explain this to me, please?”
4. “I knew that”
Say it once and people will think that you are knowledgeable. Say it twice and they will get slightly irritated. Say it three times and it is almost certain that you will not be given any advice, informed of the latest updates or reminded about an upcoming meeting. Even if you already know something, let the other person feel important and helpful by sharing this information with you. Listen attentively and say “thank you”. This is what all successful leaders do.
5. “Didn’t you know that?!”
Again, you are demonstrating your superiority, by making the other person feel like they are the last in line to figure something out.
6. “You made me feel (insert negative emotion here)”
We feel what we choose to feel. And no one can make us feel negative emotions unless we let them. Therefore, there is no reason to shift the blame for our feelings onto another person’s shoulders. Just as there is no reason to take such remarks from others personally and get defensive.
7. “You are not listening!”
Most of us have learned the hard way that saying this is a waste of breath, because talking at each other, rather than with each other only complicates a problem. The most effective way to resolve any conflict is to stop talking for a while and make an effort to listen to the other person’s arguments.
8. “Could you…”
For quite a while I could not actually understand why requests that started with “Could you do this for me” sounded somewhat irritating. Only after I learned more about the psychology behind these words, did it begin to make sense. Whenever you phrase your request this way, it sounds like you are manipulating a person into doing what you want. This may be helpful in the short-term, but it does not help to build strong relationships in the long run. If you have a favor to ask, start with “Would you…” It basically means the same thing, but does not have the same negative emotional cues.
9. “You must/must not”
No one likes to be told what to do. Give people sound reason to listen to your advice and state it in a less “critical” way. As counter-intuitive as it may sound, people will listen and accept your opinion or idea more willingly if they believe they came up with it.
10. “With all due respect…”
There is nothing wrong with letting a person know that you respect them. The problem is what goes after this phrase, which is “You are soooo wrong, I do not even know where to start to explain to you how foolish what you said/did is.” If you want to disagree with a person, do it in a more subtle way, but never ever start with “With all due respect”!