If someone uses these 9 phrases in conversation, they lack compassion and kindness

In researching another post recently, I came across this quote by Einstein: “Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”

I’ll admit it’s a bit dramatic, but it got me thinking. Most of us would consider ourselves ‘good,’ but in reality, so many people lack compassion and kindness. 

We only have to look at the news for some evidence; it seems people are becoming more and more divided with each passing day. 

It’s also backed up by science; researchers have found that empathy, the trait at the core of compassion and kindness, steeply declined in young people between 1979 and 2009. 

In addition, a Preply survey revealed that 73% of people face passive-aggressive communication in the workplace, and 82% of individuals admit to being passive-aggressive themselves. 

Where have we gone wrong? 

I’m not sure, but what is clear is that we need to talk more about compassion.  With this in mind, we dive into nine phrases that suggest someone is lacking in it. 

They’re not as obvious as you think; you may even be using some of them yourself without realizing it. 

Let’s get to it. 

1) “You’re just too sensitive.”

While it might seem harmless at first glance, when someone uses this phrase, what they’re often doing is dismissing the feelings of the listener. 

It’s a subtle way of saying, “Your emotions are not valid or important.” This not only undermines the individual’s feelings but also indicates a significant lack of empathy.

Instead of trying to understand and connect with the other person’s emotional experience, saying this indicates a choice to belittle and invalidate it.

This is such a common phrase, but it doesn’t make it okay. In fact, in the Preply survey I mentioned earlier, it came in as the worst passive-aggressive phrase people use. 

What to say instead 

It can be tempting to say this at the spur of the moment, but a more compassionate approach would be to express a genuine interest in understanding the other person’s feelings. 

Asking questions like, “Can you tell me more about what you’re feeling?” or “Why does this matter so much to you?” can open the door to deeper understanding and connection. 

It’s about shifting the focus from judging to listening, from dismissing to empathizing.

2) “I don’t see what the big deal is.”

Picture this: You’re sharing something that deeply troubles you, and the response you receive is, “I don’t see what the big deal is.” 

Such a response is not just dismissive; it’s a clear indication of a lack of compassion. It suggests the person you are talking to is refusing to even attempt to understand how you are feeling. 

What to say instead

It’s true that every individual perceives situations through the lens of their own life experiences, and what might seem minor to one person can be profoundly impactful to another. 

However, this does not give us the right to dismiss others views just because we don’t feel the same way.

When someone expresses a concern, the compassionate response is to try to see the situation through their eyes, to understand why it holds such significance for them.

Instead of dismissing another’s concerns with, “I don’t see what the big deal is,” a more empathetic approach would be to ask, “Can you help me understand why this is so important to you?” 

This opens a pathway to meaningful dialogue, showing that you value their perspective and are willing to engage with their feelings. 

3) “That’s just the way I am.”

I had an ex-colleague who would frequently use this phrase whenever anyone addressed his lack of compassion or empathy. No matter the situation—be it a minor misunderstanding or a significant oversight on his part—his go-to defense was always, “That’s just the way I am.” 

This phrase is used as an excuse for unkind or inconsiderate behavior. More than that, it demonstrates a lack of compassion and resistance to personal growth. 

But of course, relationships, whether personal or professional, thrive on mutual understanding, respect, and the willingness to sometimes compromise or change behaviors that hurt or alienate others. 

What to say instead

Look, it’s natural to be defensive sometimes, and often we resort to this phrase.

However, a more constructive approach for everyone is to express openness to feedback and change. 

Phrases like, “I understand your perspective, and I’m willing to work on that,” not only show a willingness to evolve but also reinforce the value of the relationship. 

4) “Whatever.”

The word “Whatever” might be small, but its impact is anything but. 

Interestingly, this phrase ranked as the fourth worst passive-aggressive phrase in the Preply survey I mentioned earlier.

Often delivered with a shrug or an eye-roll, it signals a stark lack of interest in engaging with the other person’s thoughts or feelings. It’s dismissive, cutting short any attempt at meaningful dialogue and leaving the speaker feeling unheard and undervalued.

What to say instead

If you are in the habit of using this phrase, it might be better to consider other alternatives like, “I see this is important to you; let’s talk more about it,” or “I’m here to listen. What’s on your mind?” 

These responses open the door to deeper understanding and connection, demonstrating a willingness to engage with and validate the other person’s experience. 

5) “If you really cared, you would…”

classy people never talk in public If someone uses these 9 phrases in conversation, they lack compassion and kindness

Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of the phrase, “If you really cared, you would…”? 

This line is a classic example of emotional manipulation, often used to make people feel guilty or question their own feelings and commitments. It’s particularly prevalent among individuals with narcissistic tendencies, who like to control others by preying on their emotions.

Basically, it’s a way of saying, “Prove your love or loyalty by doing what I want,” which is neither fair nor healthy in any relationship. Healthy interactions are built on trust, respect, and mutual understanding, not on guilt-tripping or emotional blackmail. 

What to say instead

We’ve all heard phrases like these come out of our mouths in the heat of the moment, even though we know they are wrong. 

The ‘heat of the moment’ is no excuse, though. Instead of resorting to manipulative tactics, it’s crucial to express needs and desires directly and respectfully.

Phrases like, “It would mean a lot to me if you could…” or “I feel [emotion] when [situation], and I’d appreciate if we could…” foster a more honest and open dialogue. 

Phrases like these allow both parties to express their feelings and needs without undermining the other’s emotional well-being.

6) “You never/You always…”

So let’s say you’re in the middle of a discussion, and out comes the phrase, “You never do this” or “You always do that.” 

These kinds of blanket statements can be incredibly disheartening for someone who is trying to grow or change. It shuts down the possibility of constructive dialogue by painting the other person into a corner from which it’s difficult to respond in a constructive way.

What to say instead

Instead of falling back on these overgeneralizations, it’s far more effective—and compassionate—to use specific, constructive feedback. 

For instance, rather than saying, “You always forget to call me,” a more productive approach could be, “I feel worried when I don’t hear from you. Could we find a way to make sure we check in with each other more regularly?” 

This not only addresses the specific issue but does so in a way that invites collaboration and problem-solving rather than defensiveness.

7) “I’m just being honest.”

How often is this phrase used as a precursor to a hurtful or insensitive comment? 

Don’t get me started on the number of times this supposed banner of truth has been used to justify comments that sting. It’s a way of using “honesty” as a shield to say whatever one pleases, regardless of how it might affect others.

This approach misunderstands the essence of true honesty, which involves much more than simply speaking one’s mind. Honesty is a tool for building trust and deepening connections, not for tearing them down under the guise of being “frank” or “straightforward.”

What to say instead 

It’s entirely possible—and preferable—to be honest without being hurtful. 

For instance, instead of bluntly criticizing someone’s work with, “This is terrible; I’m just being honest,” a more balanced approach would be, “I see what you were trying to achieve here. Might I offer some feedback to help improve it?” 

This way, the focus shifts from judgment to constructive help, maintaining honesty while also being mindful of the other person’s efforts and feelings.

This doesn’t mean sugarcoating the truth or avoiding difficult conversations. It means recognizing that our words have power and should be used to uplift and assist, not to belittle or harm. 

8) “You should have known better.”

We all make mistakes, and on reflection, we are keenly aware of them. After all, “hindsight is 20/20.” 

However, individuals lacking in compassion often fail to consider this. 

Instead, they say something like, “You should have known better,” as if we don’t know that you made an error in judgment. 

This approach is counterproductive. It closes the door to learning and growth by focusing solely on the error rather than on the opportunities for development it might present. 

Blaming and shaming like this can lead to defensiveness and resentment, hindering the possibility of positive outcomes from the conversation.

What to say instead

Instead of casting blame, consider offering constructive feedback. 

For example, rather than saying, “You should have known better,” a more helpful response might be, “Let’s look at where things went wrong and how we can avoid similar mistakes in the future.”

By choosing to guide rather than blame, we foster an environment where mistakes are seen as part of the learning process, not as failures. 

9) “I don’t care.”

So this is the final point but certainly not the least important. In fact it might be the most blatant sign of someone’s lack of compassion. 

It’s often used as a clear expression of indifference towards another person’s feelings or situations. When someone uses it like this, they’re not just dismissing the topic at hand; they’re signaling a lack of compassion for the other person’s emotions, which can be incredibly isolating. 

What to say instead

Even in moments of disagreement or frustration, it’s possible to express kindness. Instead of resorting to “I don’t care,” consider alternatives that convey your feelings without negating the other person’s. 

Phrases like, “I see this is important to you, but I have a different perspective,” or “I’m finding it hard to connect with this, but I want to understand why it matters to you” express personal boundaries and feelings while still valuing the other person’s experience.

The bottom line

I think we can all agree that the world needs more compassion. 

But if we really are honest with ourselves, we have all let phrases like the ones we have covered slip out from time to time. 

Let’s not be part of the problem. We can’t control everyone else, but we can do our part. Recognizing and avoiding these phrases is a good start. 

As always, I hope you found some value in this post.

Until next time. 

Picture of Mal James

Mal James

Mal James Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business. As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys. In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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