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10 Things You Should Never Say to People that You Like

things-not-to-sayHave 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.”

2. “Whatever”

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”!

  • Daniel Wood
    May 18, 2011 at 5:50 am

    Great article there were a few of these examples that stood out for me:
    “I told you so” – Always a no-no.
    “Could you X” – It really is annoying but we don’t really know what else to say.
    And just questioning your partner, really hurts them.

    Being civil often gets you a much better result.

  • Jmusaa
    May 18, 2011 at 8:52 am

    To be or not to be assertive..that’s the question. Yeah my friends find me sometimes irritating..but that’s the way it is!

  • Maryam82976
    May 18, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    veeeery interesting and useful 🙂 like always.

  • Fantastic Frank
    May 21, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    hi this is great , however it would have been more effective if you had suggested  a phrase for all of the no nos so that we could reframe them in our minds..   this was fueled by my need to have one of them in mind for me since I was writing out to some one important in  my life and was utilizing the  #6 & #7 words too much.. so help me please.



  • Jalasela
    May 24, 2011 at 5:28 am

    Hello, I have NEVER reached out in such a public forum, so please be honest but kind. I am a 37 year old woman, was quite attractive, am educated, intelligent, and communacative……however my life to this point in most areas has been a disaster. I have traveled, been fortunate to have a lot of experiences, but career sucess-non exixstant. I hate to go to the cliche of the “blame game”, but I grew up in  a home with very conditional parents…Dad corporate CEO…Mom, well not to degrade her, but a “Stepford wife”. I have gone from a “hot” 113 pounds, well cared for…to about 55lbs more. I drink, do self destructive things…DUI, pending arrest warrents. (For “harrasing a husband” who left me with a 3 week old in a hotel, desperately trying to reach him-HARASSMENT!!??), amoungst other issues. I am cognizant of my behavior, just cant change. I don’t want a relationship…I want peace, calm (I have MAJOR anxiety-on meds, and obviously self medicating with alchohol).

    I have a son. am a good Mom. he’s just 9 months today, and have constant guilt about my life….Please understand I have never ENDANGERED him, he is a healthy thriving child. But, I cant enjoy him, or life with all these issues plauging me.

    I would love to enumerate to someone who can relate…therapy has not helped….I feel a lot tell you want you want to hear to not alienate you.


  • Kjg
    December 4, 2011 at 8:04 am

    I somewhat disagree with #6 . Ive always thought it was good to share how someone effected your emotions. I remember in elementary school there was some little program thing everyone had to take. the program was supposedly to teach us better ways to deal with conflicts with other students and I specifically remember that one of the things we were told to do as apposed to getting mad and throwing hurtful words around was to calmly say something like, “I didn’t like what you did and it made me feel very sad, mad, etc.”

  • neira polanco
    November 28, 2012 at 12:19 am

    Es un tema muy interesante, me encanto, es util para nuetra comunicaciones diaramente.

  • John
    October 25, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    With all due respect, I wouldn’t want the English language to lose such a stately, long-lasting and useful expression as that discussed in number 10. It is a respectful and strong way to respond when a person is disrespecting you. It is not advisable to use in certain situations and in certain tones of voice.
    Example. (In a group): “I told you, you shouldn’t have bought that cheese”
    “With all due respect, I like that cheese and I didn’t have time to shop around for a cheaper option.”

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