While it's never a good idea to become so self-conscious of what you're saying, or how it might be perceived, that your conversations screech to a halt, it's always a good idea to take other people's feelings into consideration when choosing what you say — and how you say it. And one of the easiest ways is by avoiding comments that are often perceived as rude.
"It is important to be aware of these things because most people don’t want to purposely offend [others]," speech pathologist Kendra T. Allison, MA, CCC-SLP, tells Bustle. Because one little comment can quickly snowball, if you aren't careful. "The [speaker] might offend accidentally and be unaware of it. The receiver may think the commenter tried to be rude. [And] it can cause little rifts in future interactions, such as passive aggressiveness and pettiness." Of course, conversations take two people. So it's on both, Allison says, to try to have a healthy interaction, and give each other the benefit of the doubt. But you can always do your part to help them go as smoothly as possible.
Everyone's different when it comes to what rubs them the wrong way, but there are a definitely a few comments that can easily seem rude, simply because they seem short, disinterested, or uncaring. Read on for a few of the most common examples, according to experts.
"I'm Sorry, But..."
Offering a true apology when you've done something wrong or hurtful is always a good idea. But following it up with a quick "but" can completely undo it.
"If there is a 'but' at the end of your apology, you may want to reconsider whether or not you’re really sorry," relationship expert and sexologist Dr. Jessica O'Reilly tells Bustle.
"I'm Sorry You Feel That Way"
Similarly, telling someone you're sorry for the way they feel can rub them the wrong way.
"This is a non-apology apology," Dr. O'Reilly says. "You’re not taking responsibility for your words or actions and you may be implying that [the other person] is responsible or unreasonable, which serves to invalidate their feelings."
Instead, Dr. O'Reilly says you might want to say, "'I'm sorry. I understand you are feeling XYZ,' and ask if they want to talk about it or need some support."
Throwing a quick "whatever" in someone's direction can make them feel pretty rejected, even if you didn't mean it that way. It can indicate to the other person "that their conversational efforts are irrelevant [or] uninteresting," life coach Yocheved Golani tells Bustle. "No matter the situation, it's a rude remark."
"I Have To Take This Call"
Unless an emergency, saying you need to take a call while you're in the middle of a real-life conversation is never a good idea. "The rude behavior alerts the other person that they are not valued," Golani says, which is why it's best to finish your first convo before starting a new one.
"I Told You That Already"
While it might be annoying to have to repeat yourself, this comment is one that comes off harsh. "We have to keep in mind that people don't remember every single thing we say, and if you get asked a repeat question, to practice patience and simply answer it again," relationship expert Mayla Green, tells Bustle.
"You're Still Single?"
If you ask this question, it's likely coming from a place of love or concern. But it can make the person on the receiving end feel like something's wrong with them, Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaker, tells Bustle. It sounds like they either can't find love, that love should be a priority for them when it may not be, or they are somehow flawed for being "alone," And obviously, none of the above is true.
"Well, You Are Who You Are"
As Trombetti says, this comment is another one that implies someone is flawed, yet can't do anything about it. Even in a joking way, it's one that's better left unsaid.
"So, What Do You Do For A Living?"
"Some people do not want to be defined by their job," counselor Mary Joye, LMHC, tells Bustle, which is one reason out of many this comment can be off-putting.
Sure, it's a go-to for may folks. But unless you're sure it's OK to ask, it may be better to think of another way to get the conversation flowing.
"You Look Tired"
Even if someone looks downright exhausted, it's best not to point it out. "Telling someone they look rough, or even commenting on another's appearance, can be off-putting to some," licensed professional counselor Rachel Ann Dine, tells Bustle.
If you're simply looking for something to comment on, try to focus on their skill set instead. Something like, "You are very caring" or "You always do a great job" can't be taken the wrong way, Dine says.
If someone reaches out or extends an offer, replying with a quick "I'm good" can seem rude and disinterested — even if that wasn't your intent.
"In fact, some people may even read into it more and think that you're saying that they have nothing to offer that is of any value to you," Samantha Morrison, a health and wellness expert at Glacier Wellness, tells Bustle. So throw out the "I'm goods" with caution.
"Why Are You Like This?"
This may seem like an innocent comment, but what you may not realize is "why" questions have a tendency to put others on the defensive, Dine says. "Instead of starting your questions with why, try asking 'What caused you to become upset?' or 'What caused you to do XYZ?' A tiny nuance that can change the direction of your conversation!"
"To Be Honest With You..."
Even though this is such a common phrase, it really can send a negative message. And here's why. "If you are giving feedback to someone who has asked for it, leading with this line sounds judgmental and as though you are usually dishonest with them (but that this time you are making an exception)," Devon Brooks, life coach and founder of Sphere, tells Bustle. "It's better to pause and say 'That's a great question', then reply with your direct reflection or feedback. Getting to the goods is the most effective way to give a truly authentic reply."
Since this comment can make you sound defensive, even when you aren't, it may help to get into the habit of saying "yes and," instead.
This will move the conversation in a more positive direction, Brooks says, and increase "the likelihood that this person will feel comfortable having challenging conversations with you in the future."
"I'm So Busy"
While it's perfectly fine to tell someone that you're too busy to talk, try to avoid this comment when asked how you're doing.
It can come off as presumptuous, Brooks says. "[It makes it seem] as though you think you are busier than the person you are talking to."
"This Is The Only Way"
Telling someone that your way of doing something is the only (or best) way isn't exactly fair, licensed marriage and family therapist, Heidi McBain, MA, tells Bustle. It's fine if you're particular, but not so fine to imply there can't be more than one way to do something.
"I Don't Want To"
"Saying 'I don't want to' can feel quite rude to a partner or someone who needs your support on something," licensed psychologist Sue Sexton, tells Bustle. While it's OK to say no, this way of saying it shuts them down, and leaves them hanging.
A different way of replying, Sexton says, is with something like "I can see you need help, but can't at this moment."
"No Offense, But..."
First and foremost, if something is offensive, you likely shouldn't be saying it, even with a preface. But, if it's simply a difference of opinion, there's a better way to address it. As Sexton says, "People can express their opinions without worrying about offending others. Just saying something like 'I know this may be different than what some agree with but here goes...' or 'I was hoping to share my opinion with you.'" Say it without the preface, then be open to hearing their opinion, too.
"You Have Something In Your Teeth"
Pointing out that someone has food in their teeth, or that their breath is off, is all about tone and timing.
"It may be true and in many instances it is helpful to share feedback about bad breath or a booger in someone's nostril," Sexton says. "However, saying it so directly can come off as embarrassing for the recipient."
If it's a close friend, you can tell them. But for others, you may want to go about it more delicately.
"Can I Touch Your Belly?"
While it's common to get excited over someone's pregnancy, the general rule for the world should be that no one reaches out or asks to touch a woman's stomach. "It's rude and invasive," Brenna Smith, president of SheNOW Women's Charity, tells Bustle. It's much kinder to simply ask how she's feeling.
Nobody means to be rude when making these comments, but they can be off-putting just the same. By storing them in the back of your brain, and avoiding them whenever possible, you can avoid awkward moments — and have healthier interactions.