People who lack emotional intelligence frequently say these 10 phrases without realizing their impact

Now don’t get me wrong.

We all put our foot in it from time to time (I know I do).

Social faux pas are an inevitable part of life!

But there are some people out there who just take things to the next level. They can’t help themselves! Constantly violating social norms and making embarrassing blunders (you know the type).

Worse still, they don’t realize their impact.

Now consider this.

Despite what you might think, they’re not being obnoxious a-holes on purpose. Chances are they lack emotional intelligence (or EQ).

You can actually spot them a mile off.

Let’s go through 10 common phrases that are frequently blurted out by people who lack EQ.

1) “Don’t stress.”

Wow, thanks. Such a help.

If you’ve ever been told “Don’t stress.” in a super stressful moment, you’ll appreciate my sarcasm.

I mean, if only it was that easy!

This phrase demonstrates a lack of empathy and is incredibly insensitive.

Here’s the thing.

Even though it’s coming from a good place, it does nothing to actually calm your nerves. Far from it. In fact, it’ll probably make things ten times worse!

Stress is a state of mental tension that affects everyone. 

It’s a natural human instinct that helps us deal with threats so is usually triggered by an external event or difficult situation.

Telling someone “Don’t stress.” doesn’t deal with the root cause and is a clear sign that they just don’t get it.

Instead, empathetic statements that create a connection (and sense of support) work much better.

For example: “I see this is challenging for you, is there anything I can support you with or talk about to make things easier?”

2) “I’m fine.” (When they’re clearly not)

I’m sure you’ve all heard this before.

Especially if you’re involved in a relationship.

And while the specific circumstances might justify them wanting a bit of space to cool off, it’s still an example of someone trying to avoid a difficult conversation.

In other words, they’re stonewalling.

Which probably means they lack EQ.

Think about it.

When they say “I’m fine.” (especially following an argument or difficult situation) they’re basically putting up a brick wall.

This can be super frustrating for someone who just wants to help.

The worst thing is, they simply don’t realize the impact of their behavior.

3) “Wow, you’ve put on weight.”

I remember hearing this from my dad.

I was visiting after being away at college for three months.

To be honest, he had a point. I’d over-indulged (and partied) as a fresher. But that doesn’t make it okay!

Now, I forgive him, because he’s my dad and I love him.

But if anyone else (who wasn’t close family) would have said it, that’s a big red flag for me. 

It shows a complete lack of empathy.

Thankfully, I don’t have any major insecurities about my weight, but many people do. And saying this kind of thing could mentally scar them.

Other insensitive remarks include comments about someone’s physical appearance, fashion sense, financial stability, relationship status, or academic ability.

Most of us understand we have to tread carefully when broaching these subjects.

That is unless you lack emotional intelligence.

4) “I’m sorry you got upset.”

This sounds like an apology.

Fair enough, right?

Wrong. When you pay close attention to this phase, they’re not actually holding themselves accountable.

Rather, they’re implying they did nothing wrong, and you just got upset.

A better way to say sorry would be something like: “I’m sorry I did that, I was wrong, I messed up.”

In other words, take responsibility for your actions.

This sneaky side-step is a sign that someone lacks emotional intelligence.

But there’s more.

What’s really going on here is they’re trying to protect their ego. Nobody likes to make mistakes or look like the bad guy. It’s uncomfortable (and sometimes painful). So, our brain has a built-in defense mechanism to protect us from these unpleasant situations.

It’s narcissistic behavior that involves pointing the finger, passing blame, refusing to be accountable, and downplaying toxic behavior.

When you boil it down, it’s a selfish act that shows a complete lack of empathy.

5) “Sorry, I wasn’t listening.”

In reality, you’ll probably get non-verbal cues before someone actually says this.

But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

Perhaps you lose eye contact or they become distracted by their phone. 

In other words, they’re not actively listening.

Despite what many people think, listening is a skill. I mean, really picking up what someone is putting down.

You have to be in the moment, ask open-ended questions to extract more information, repeat back what’s been said, and avoid passing judgment or advice.

Imagine the scenario.

You’re three minutes into pouring your heart out to someone. Sharing your deepest vulnerabilities and really opening up.

Then you hear this dreaded phrase.

It’s a real frustration. Not to mention offensive, disrespectful, and plain rude.

It demonstrates a complete lack of EQ and they just don’t realize the impact they’re having.

6) “You make me so angry!”

phrases someone deflecting People who lack emotional intelligence frequently say these 10 phrases without realizing their impact

This one is about emotional control.

Let me explain.

Being mindful and self-aware is a big part of emotional intelligence. When someone has a temper tantrum and completely loses it, chances are they’re lacking EQ. Especially if they consistently have anger issues over several months (or even years).

To be honest…

If they’re seeing red, they’ll probably say something more extreme than just: “You make me so angry!” (usually involving a few expletives).

But you get the idea.

And they certainly won’t realize the consequences of their actions.

In fact, they’re so overcome with negative emotions, that they may even lose physical control.

A 2004 domestic abuse study found that abusers had a below-average level of EQ. The report concluded:

“…deficits in various components of emotional intelligence are related to an increase in the propensity to be abusive.”

7) “That’s great, but what about…”

This one is so annoying!

When someone interrupts you, talks over you, or just dominates the conversation.

Whether in the office or among friends, it’s another example of not actively listening (only more aggressive).

Let’s say you’re at a party talking about a movie you just watched. 

Mid-flow someone completely flips the conversation to be about them.

They disregard whatever you say. Undermining your ideas, feelings, and beliefs. In other words, totally disrespecting you.

Now remember this.

They might not be doing it on purpose. They (you’ve guessed it) might just seriously lack emotional intelligence!

It could be linked to an attention-seeking disorder or low self-esteem.

8) “Why do you always judge me?”

I used to work with someone that would say this.

At the time, I didn’t get it.

Feedback and constructive criticism is an essential part of working in a team. We share ideas, learn, iterate, and improve.

But this one guy really struggled to take feedback. He labeled it judgment and saw it as a personal attack.

Now I get it.

He no doubt lacked emotional intelligence.

We had to step on eggshells around him. And despite my best efforts to explain the process, things always got heated.

Suffice to say, due to his constant overreactions he unfortunately didn’t last long in the role.

9) “Get over it.”

This phrase demonstrates an inability to adapt your communication style or tone of voice.

It might be perfectly justified (in your mind).

But it’s rather blunt and fails to acknowledge someone’s feelings. This makes it insensitive and could suggest a lack of EQ.

Here’s the thing.

If someone is feeling hurt by something you’ve said, it doesn’t matter how big or small it was (or how long ago it happened). Undermining their feelings shows a lack of empathy and understanding.

Try to remain patient. Realize that everyone takes different amounts of time to recover.

I had a friend who was still crushed over a break-up after three years!

Simply telling him to “Get over it.” certainly wouldn’t have helped. Instead, being there for him and listening is way more empathetic.

10) “Cheer up.”

Finally, this has to be one of the most common (and useless) phrases we hear.

And definitely shows a lack of EQ.

Here’s why.

We all feel down from time to time. It’s perfectly normal. Life often throws us a curve ball and gives us something to worry about. But telling someone to cheer up doesn’t help the situation. It can actually make it worse.

They’re shining a big light on the fact you’re feeling off.

So now, you not only feel down but also self-conscious about looking sad.


I would say it’s better to say nothing than to say “Cheer up.”

But of course, people with low EQ don’t get this and don’t realize they’re actually making the situation worse.

Like most of the points on this list, it comes down to an ability to empathize. Because, by putting yourself in their shoes you have a much better idea on how to deal with the situation.

Leila El-Dean

Leila El-Dean

Leila is a passionate writer with a background in photography and art. She has over ten years of experience in branding, marketing, and building websites. She loves travelling and has lived in several countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, and Malta. When she’s not writing (or ogling cats), Leila loves trying new food and drinking copious amounts of Earl Grey tea.

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