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Common Words We Use That Hurt Others

Common Words We Use That Hurt Others

Everyday conversation is essential to several aspects of life such as maintaining relationships (business and personal), building trust and credibility and creating a pleasurable experience for yourself and others. It comes as no surprise therefore that conversation skills are one of the most basic skills needed to function well in everyday society. One of the most important conversation skills for you to have is the ability to avoid using offensive or hurtful language. This becomes especially difficult when you are not aware that the words you use are actually considered hurtful. Slang words and colloquialisms commonly used by the younger generation can also be unknowingly offensive. To assist with this confusion, here are a few common words or phrases which you may or may not know are actually hurtful.

1. “Gay”

This word doesn’t mean ‘happy’ anymore. It is more renowned as a word synonymous with homosexuals. In a society where it is already difficult enough for these people to fit in, it doesn’t help when the word ‘gay’ is now used to describe a stupid or unfortunate situation. Everyday we can hear people say: “I hate this museum, it’s so gay.” When used in the wrong circumstance, ‘gay’ can be incredibly offensive especially around homosexuals. They probably don’t appreciate hearing that they are being used to describe something boring or underwhelming.

2. “Retarded”

This word is commonly used to describe a situation that is crazy or doesn’t make sense, e.g.: “That exam was so retarded.” It is easy to forget that there are mentally challenged people out there. Mentally retarded people and their loved ones would certainly not appreciate hearing themselves compared to something that is considered crazy or unintelligible. These people struggle through life and out of respect, the ‘R’ word is best kept out of your everyday vocabulary.

3. “It was just a joke”

If a person has trouble tolerating whatever you just said, chances are they won’t believe you say you weren’t serious. No matter how close you are as friends or family, if you make an offensive comment and expect them to take it as a joke, it might be a little to much to ask. Although you may have had good intentions, it always pays to be careful about what you say out loud, especially if you know the person is a little bit sensitive.

4. “Never mind, you don’t get it”

Nobody likes being left out of the loop, and used in the wrong context, this can make it sound like you left the person out on purpose. Although you may have only meant for it to be a quick dismissal of a subject, it could come off as rude and flippant, which destroys relationships rather than maintains them. Next time try providing an explanation, no matter how brief.

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5. “This makes me want to kill myself”

You probably only meant it as a figure of speech, however in certain situations, for example, around a person who has experienced the loss of a loved one through suicide, it can create a very awkward situation. Since you never really know these details about every person you happen to talk to, it might be best to avoid using this phrase altogether.

6. “I feel so bipolar today”

Being bipolar isn’t as simple as having a tiny mood swing throughout a day. Mental disorders are stressful and complicated, way beyond the understanding of a person without a mental disability. Certain people, perhaps with bipolar loved ones can be easily offended by your choice of using the word. Without a thorough understanding of the term, it might be worth considering another term to describe your moods on a crazy day.

7. “You’re adopted”

There should be no good reason to use this phrase in conversation with someone obviously not adopted. It becomes an issue when you use the phrase in inappropriate situations. For example: “You are nothing like your siblings. It’s like you’re adopted or something.” A person with a good sense of humor probably wouldn’t mind too much, however some people are less humorous and would potentially be offended at this statement. These kinds of assumptions, regardless of intention, can be dangerous in conversation.

8. “You_____like a girl”

Girls around the word, especially feminists, find this statement incredibly  insulting. Statements such as: “You walk like a girl” are usually said with intentions to insult. While it can be argued that it was meant as a joke, especially towards a very good friend or family member, it can also be rude if used in the wrong situation with the wrong crowd.

9. “Black”

It is controversial, however while you may have only intended to point out the color of their skin, some people are sensitive about the use of the word. They may feel as though it marginalizes them into a minority and it either offend them or makes the, uncomfortable.

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Rather than using the word ‘black’, it might be more practical to label them by ethnicity instead, for example, African American.

10. “Nigga”

This word becomes problematic in modern times where the term ‘nigga’ is now used almost an endearment to a person you are close to. The word is renowned in popular music for example in the song My Nigga by YG. However looking at the racist origins or the word ‘Nigger’, from which it was developed, it comes as no surprise that it remains offensive to a lot of people. It would be wise to remain cautious about using the word around people you aren’t extremely familiar with, regardless of the context.

11. “Spastic”

This word is often used in the context of something weird or dysfunctional, for example: “The electricity has been going really spastic today.” While it seems to be an appropriate way to describe the unusual behavior of electricity that day, it may not be amusing to those who find spasms to be a sensitive topic. Similarly to a few of the other words on this list, it may be best not to use words which you don’t have a thorough understanding with.

12. “Midget”

It is important to note that some people can be sensitive about height, and referring to someone as a ‘midget’ may sound like you are marginalizing them and taking it as a negative thing, Without intent to insult, it is understandable that you may have been using this term to describe short people your whole life. However it might be a good idea to find a word which sounds a bit less offensive towards people lacking in height.

13. “Nazi”

Granted that you well acquainted with the concept of Nazi Germany, you should know that the usage of this word has changed slightly over the years. ‘Nazi’ is often used to describe a person who is strict, with a very rigid personality. It is easy to understand that using this word to describe someone can be incredibly offensive. Next time, it might be better to call them ‘rigid’ rather than comparing them to a rather controversial race of people.

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14. “Take a chill pill”

When a person is stressed, this is possibly the worst thing to say to them in a difficult situation. To them it could imply that you expect them to easily get over their problems and makes you sound like they don’t matter. This can be intended to be used in a joking manner, however in the wrong situation it can actually be really hurtful toward a person.

15. “I don’t care”

This is a very common phrase for someone to say in a variety of situations, and it is obvious that it can easily offend. It is never nice to say that you don’t care about something or someone, even in a joking manner. To those who are a bit more sensitive. they might take your words more seriously than you think. Altogether, it is best to assume that this phrase is offensive in most situations.

16. “You’re just confused”

Even if you are right, it is deeply offensive if you make them sound stupid. More often than not you might think you know the whole story in a particular situation, but chances are, you don’t. Be polite to a person in a situation of crisis. It might help maintain your relationship if you offer your support rather than dismissing their situation.

17. “What’s the point?”

Although you may have asked this from a viewpoint of curiosity, it is easy for this statement to sound offensive. Depending on the sensitivity or the person and the circumstance, you might sound like you are dismissing their explanation before they even try explaining. It sounds rude and there are many more polite ways to ask about the purpose of an action.

18. “You’re too uptight”

People have certain passions and motives, and to imply they are ‘too uptight’ can be extremely hurtful. If they feel strongly about something and you don’t understand why, it might still be better to ask them why rather than unintentionally suggest that it doesn’t matter.

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19. “Have you been living under a rock?”

This is a very popular expression used with people who are less aware of the world around them than most. Keep in mind that they are probably not aware of this fact and implying that they are ignorant, even in a joking manner can come across are offensive. Some people are more attuned to their surroundings than most, however it is no reason to criticize those who are less worldly than you.

20. “You’re not that stupid”

Although this is usually meant as a compliment, certain situations can turn it into an insult instead. For example, if someone close to you wants to do something you know is harmful, you will be inclined to make a comment along the lines of: “Don’t do it, you’re not that stupid.” At this stage, it can be taken as offensive, since it implies that they aren’t smart enough to make their own decisions. Overall, this phrase might do more harm than good in most situations.

Featured photo credit: Hurtful words via google.com.au

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Elizabeth Andal

Elizabeth is a passionate writer who shares about lifestyle tips and lessons learned in life on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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