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Common Words We Use That Hurt Others

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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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