As we make our way into 2016, New Year's resolutions are taking a hit left and right as they're confronted with the inevitable pressures and temptations of the real world. A big threat to these goals is unsolicited commentary, and by that token, there are certain things never to say to someone working on resolutions.
Studies actually show that there are detrimental effects to discussing our New Year's resolutions — it's prematurely psychologically rewarding and might decrease motivation — yet as social creatures, we're drawn to sharing anyway. We might bring up our resolutions in small talk as a relevant start-of-the-year topic, or announce them on social media to hold ourselves accountable. Regardless of whether one's New Year's resolution is shared, they should still be granted the space to accomplish their goals on their own terms.
Be it drinking less, exercising more, quitting smoking, or taking control of another aspect of our lives, the best sources of motivation are personal, versus outside input or feedback from others, especially unsought evaluations and opinions. The only thing more trying than working hard to please yourself is knowing you have an audience gauging your progress as well. Resolution-makers are encouraged to measure their success in terms of commitment, not necessarily progress, so when outside observers make remarks about tangible results rather than the efforts of the individual's undertaking, it can be destructive to their confidence and motivation.
1. "You should do XYZ if you want to succeed."
The most annoying input when working towards personal betterment is unsolicited advice. Words of support are fine and welcome, but unless someone has directly asked for your advice in taking on their resolution, stay out of it. Telling them how to achieve their goal is demeaning because it doesn't credit them with the ability to improve themselves on their own, or know when to ask for help when they need it.
2. "It's about time."
Any comments suggesting that someone is overdue for making the change doesn't support or applaud their efforts to commit to betterment now. Remarks like they "should have done this long ago," or that you "told them so" invalidates their initiative, and turns their positive action into another failure.
3. "What exactly are you trying to achieve?"
If you two are BFFs, asking questions to better understand your friend's objective might be fine. If you're an acquaintance or coworker who only sees them at the office, inquiring further about their resolution might come off as an interrogation, or like you're questioning their decision. Even if you don't understand their resolution — "you already have a great job, why are you looking to make a career change?" — keep the commentary to yourself, because their personal goals are their own.
4. "You're still at it?"
Regardless of how close you are with the person, it isn't encouraging to make a crack about them still being committed to the resolution they made at the beginning of the year. Even if it's all in good fun, you'll come across as mocking their efforts, rather than being the supportive friend they need.
5. "Is it working?"
Asking someone to their face if their work ethic, commitment to healthy eating, or other mechanism to self-betterment is actually working is a straight-up slap in the face. It's telling them that you don't see a difference, and are forced to ask. Furthermore, New Year's resolutions are often yearlong commitments, and success isn't guaranteed in the first month. Making comments that suggest you don't see results is policing their progress and questioning their efforts. What's more important than a drastic change is adapting to long-term transformation that will stick for life.
6. "I accomplished mine."
Resolutions are personal goals, not trophies to be compared or pit against each other in a contest. Even if you and your friends all made similar resolutions, you're not in competition with each other to achieve them, because everyone's life is different and everyone works in different ways. If others butt in to compare notes on progress, stay mum about your resolution. You don't have to answer to anyone.
7. "You're going to break it sooner or later anyway."
There is no place for negative naysayers when resolutions are on the line. Even if studies have shown that most New Year's resolutions are broken, that doesn't put you in a place to stomp on the efforts of others. If it's against the odds they'll make it through 2016 sticking to their resolution, they're much less apt to prevail if also up against discouraging words and criticism. Communicate support, or say nothing.
8. "You're no fun since you made this resolution."
New Year's resolutions often call for cutting out some of the more indulgent things life offers, like staying out too late, and binge-watching too much TV. As such, they can be correlated with a definite drop in fun times in certain friendship circles. This should be expected and respected, not chastised. If your friend actually seems unhappy or unhealthy since committing to her resolution, that's a different conversation to be had, but if her journey to self betterment is simply getting in the way of some of your debaucheries, do the right thing. Show support by giving her space, and do not succumb to playing temptress and have her break what she's worked hard towards for the sake of a Saturday night.
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