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