When we’re in relationships, we get comfortable enough to speak our minds because we have that honesty, trust and comfort dynamic. However, it may have a negative effect when we do it without thinking about the possible consequences.
Flippant comments can be misinterpreted and the words that you say when you’re angry may cut deeper or be more damaging to the other person than you think. We can say poisonous things to our family members, friends, partners and even co-workers. It might not be intentional but it still hurts their feelings.
So here are 8 phrases that can be harmful to your relationships and suggestions for the alternative.
- “You’re Too Sensitive” or “Calm Down”
When a person confides in you about a matter that’s bothering them and you reply with these phrases, the chances of them coming back to you for your consolation are significantly less. They won’t share important things about themselves to you again because you minimized their feelings and that is not helpful.
When phrases like these are uttered, they tend to escalate a problem instead of neutralizing it. Even if you think that someone’s objectively being sensitive and you don’t understand why they are offended, you mustn’t judge them. Telling someone how to feel about something that they are going through is not fair. Abigail Makepeace, a Los Angeles-based marriage and family therapist stated that “.. a genuine statement like “I can see why that hurt you” can go a long way toward making your partner (or the person in your life) feel heard.”
- “Just Forget It” or “Whatever”
These are common statements that are also quite annoying, especially the first one when someone disconnects from what they were telling you and you won’t know what they wanted to say & your active listening was disturbed.
Saying these phrases creates an avoidance of communication within the relationship. It demonstrates that the person speaking didn’t care enough to engage in the conversation or to talk about what’s actually going on in their mind. It’s dismissive and leaves the other person confused and not knowing if the situation is resolved. Instead, try saying that you don’t feel like they are listening to you or that you would rather not talk about it anymore.
- “I Am Done”
This statement, along with “Maybe we should just break up” or “I’ll just leave you, how about that?” is usually a threat of ending the relationship: whether it’s true or not. These statements can be said in the heat of the moment and they are toxic because they show how easy it is for a person to walk away from the relationship and that can make the other person feel disposable and neglected.
They aren’t always said in anger. Sometimes, threatening to break up is a strategy to get what they want out of the other person. It’s manipulative and unhealthy. As Tracee Dunblazier, licensed, it’s presented as a negotiation tool, but it’s actually just bullying. A better approach would be to take time to cool off before making relationship-ending statements.
- “It’s Not A Big Deal” or “You’ll Get Over It”
While you might say this because you are trying to help the other person with their current perspective, it’s unhelpful. It may be well-intentioned but it’s invalidating, especially when that person is suffering.
While they might eventually get over it, it’s inappropriate to say and it makes them feel silly for even mentioning it, says Miami-based marriage and family therapist Amanda Baquero. An alternative phrase is “That sounds hard. I can see why you feel that way. We can get through this together.”
- “You’re Just Like Your Father/Mother”
Or brother, sister, aunt or uncle. This phrase is particularly insulting because you could be referring to a trait that the other person is well aware of and dislikes in their family member. It’s a personal attack and these are fighting words that will push the other person’s buttons. Even if the behavior is similar, it’s still disrespectful.
When you say this, you’re essentially punishing that person for sharing family matters with you or they are observations that you picked up by watching or hearing about their family. Blanket statements are a no-no. Instead, Los Angeles-based marriage and family therapist Abigail Makepeace suggests that you state the specific behavior that bothered you and make a request for change.
- “You’re Crazy”
This is a really damaging and toxic thing to say to someone. You are insulting their intelligence. It makes them feel like they are incapable of evaluating their own reality and that you don’t think that anything that they say is worth your time. You’re insinuating that their feelings are insane and invalidating them. It makes them feel insecure, especially when they’re already feeling low.
Saying this statement shows that you don’t respect them or care about their opinion. We should be very careful about saying this because in extreme cases, it can become a slippery descent into gaslighting, especially when a person’s behavior is being discussed and the other person is dismissing their observation to minimize responsibility. A possible alternative to try out is “I don’t understand your point of view. I would like to understand it more so please let me know what you’re thinking.”
- Not Saying Anything or Giving The Silent Treatment
While the others were phrases, this behavior needs no words and that’s the power in it. While words definitely hurt, actions are more concrete and just as, if not more hurtful. This behavior is damaging because it stonewalls a person.
Stonewalling is basically keeping a person out and away from you. This is a common activity for people with avoidant attachment styles. They usually withdraw by shutting down and the other person feels rejected and abandoned, especially when their need for emotional connection is needed the most at that moment. A better solution would be to ask to cool off without ignoring or refusing to talk at all. Even saying “I don’t want to talk about this right now” can go a long way.
- “You Never” or “You Always”
This is a common phrase when a person is frustrated. Generalizations hurt a relationship because it puts the other person on the defensive. It comes across as criticism, you’re mischaracterizing them and they might shut down when the accusation is not true.
According to Heather Z. Lyons PhD, licensed psychologist and couples counselor, generalizations like this are not helpful to addressing any unpleasant behavior, but is actually a criticism on who the other person or your partner is. A better suggestion would be to address the offending behavior and how it makes you feel.
When it comes to relationships, we might secretly wish that they will be smooth sailing with a few flaws but that’s not the reality. We all make mistakes in all of our relationships and we don’t always say the right thing, even when our intentions are good. The idea is to be more aware of the things we say to each other and to give ourselves answers to come up with more tempered responses. Communication and forgiveness are important in our relationships, especially in the close ones. With enough practice, we can use these skills to make our relationships and lives better.
See you soon.
*Andersen, C. H. (2017, October 23). 45 things you should never say in a relationship . Redbook. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://www.redbookmag.com/love-sex/relationships/g3721/things-you-should-never-say-in-a-relationship/
*Borresen, K. (2021, December 2). 7 toxic phrases people in relationships say without realizing it. Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://sports.yahoo.com/7-toxic-phrases-people-relationships-012303147.html.
*Fellizar, K. (2019, March 11). 7 common phrases experts say are actually damaging your relationship. Bustle. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://www.bustle.com/p/7-common-phrases-experts-say-are-actually-damaging-your-relationship-16897108
*Unknown . (2020, October 31). 10+ toxic phrases that can ruin your relationship. theMRSingLink. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://themrsinglink.com/blog/things-you-say-that-will-damage-your-relationship/