You’ve just said something wrong. The other person is looking at you with a red angry face, but the issue is not about what you’ve said, it’s about what they’ve heard.
There are some sentences that act like deadly silent ninjas, killing self-confidence and antagonizing your friends, family and colleagues—the worst thing is that you might not even realize it.
Here are 7 things you should never say to someone:
1. “I don’t care”
What they hear: “Leave me alone. I have better things to do than listen to you.”
Explain why you would love to hear about that subject, and why “right now” is not the best time for you. Everybody matters. Not caring about someone is denying their existence: If people matter for you, you will matter for them.
2. “You’re wrong”
What they hear: “You are stupid. You know nothing. You’re worthless.”
Prefer more tactful sentences. “I would have thought that…”, “My understanding is that…”
Ask questions to make sure you and the other person are working on the same assumptions.
3. “You can’t do it”
What they hear: “You don’t have what it takes to do it, no matter how hard you try; So why do you even try?”
Why would you set someone up for failure? I understand that you don’t want your friend to have delusions, and you could feel that it is your duty to stop that person before they hurt themselves, but I would like to ask you: how can you judge what is good for somebody? And what if failure was the best path for growth?
Encourage people who have chosen a challenging path.
Good judgement comes with experience, but experience comes from bad judgement; – Will Rogers
4. “This should be easy”
What they hear: “It’s easy for most people. If you have trouble doing it, there is probably something wrong about you”
The level of difficulty is perceived differently by everyone, and everyone has their own Everest. If you’re telling somebody that their job is easy, then you’re undermining their contribution to society and you’re telling them they don’t deserve the salary they have.
If someone is struggling and coming for help, then they have trust you enough to show you their weakness. Don’t rub their face in it by saying “This should be easy”.
Acknowledge the challenges that people encounter and value their commitment to overcome them.
5. “I told you so”
What they hear: “You did not listen to me. That’s all your fault. I’m so much better than you.”
This one is a common no-no.
It’s useless to shoot a dead horse, especially when other person needs your help more than ever. Don’t keep tabs on who’s right and who’s wrong. If it were a competition, the one keeping tabs would be the one losing.
Help the other person, and don’t add insult to injury.
6. “As I just said before…”
What they hear: “You don’t listen to me. You’re making me repeat myself. You’re so annoying and dumb”
This is a very sneaky conversation killer. If someone asks you a question and you point out that you’ve already answered it, then you’re killing their willingness to learn, or even to have a slight interest in what you say.
Say the same thing in another way and by illustrating it differently.
Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Then, tell them. Finally, tell them what you’ve told them. – Aristotle
7. “Good luck”
What they hear: “There’s nothing you can do that will make you succeed. Only luck will. let’s hope for a once-in-a-millenium planet-alignment-like opportunity so that you can succeed.”
Also, it is bad luck to wish good luck. It is more common for comedians to say “Break a leg”, or “Merde!” – the French equivalent of “Shit!”. The expression comes from the fact that, during older times, successful plays would attract a lot of carriage traffic and therefore a significant amount of horse dejection. Maybe this is why people would slip and “break a leg”.
Don’t attribute success to luck; celebrate the other person’s qualities instead. “Show them your guts!” “Give them something they’ll never forget!”