People with poor social skills use these 9 phrases without realizing how they come across

There’s a vast difference between being socially adept and unaware.

The difference boils down to perception. People with poor social skills often say things without realizing how they’re being perceived.

Ironically, they are trying to create a connection, but instead, they end up creating awkward situations.

These individuals often utilize phrases that, unbeknownst to them, send off the wrong signals. But don’t worry, everyone can learn and improve their social abilities.

Below are nine phrases often used by those with poor social skills. I’ll explain why these phrases can be misinterpreted and how you might consider rephrasing them for better social interactions.

1) “You should…”

Navigating social situations can be a minefield, especially when you’re not fully aware of how your words come across.

One of the phrases often misused by individuals with poor social skills is “you should”. This phrase might seem harmless, but it can unintentionally sound judgmental or bossy to the listener.

In essence, when you tell someone what they “should” do, it implies that you believe your way is superior or that you’re presuming to know what’s best for them. This can make the other person feel defensive or belittled.

While your intentions might be to offer helpful advice, the delivery can lead to misunderstandings and strained relationships.

Instead of using “you should”, consider rephrasing to a softer suggestion like “have you considered…?” or “what about trying…?”. This way, you’re offering advice without implying your way is the only right way.

It’s not just what you say, but how you say it that matters.

2) “No offense, but…”

From personal experience, I can tell you, this is a phrase that often raises red flags.

I remember a time when a friend casually dropped the line, “No offense, but…” during a conversation. It was followed by a critique on my cooking skills. Needless to say, it didn’t come across well.

“No offense, but…” is often used as a precursor to a negative comment or criticism. The problem is, it doesn’t soften the blow but rather makes the listener brace for something potentially hurtful.

While my friend thought he was being diplomatic, it actually had the opposite effect. It felt like an underhanded way to deliver criticism.

A better approach? Try framing your feedback positively or ask if the person is open to some constructive criticism first. This way, you’re being respectful and giving them the option to be receptive to your feedback.

3) “That’s not my problem”

The phrase “That’s not my problem” is a common one that can land wrong in social situations. It might seem like a simple statement of fact, but it can often come across as dismissive or uncaring.

In 1970, psychologists John Darley and Bibb Latané conducted an experiment, now known as the Bystander Effect, which found that individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when other people are present. The phrase “That’s not my problem” seems to reflect this psychological phenomenon, creating a social barrier and reducing empathy.

Instead of using this phrase, try showing empathy or at least acknowledging the other person’s situation. A simple “I’m sorry to hear that” can go a long way in improving how you come across in social situations.

4) “I told you so”

The phrase “I told you so” is another one that people with poor social skills often use without realizing its impact. It may seem like a harmless way to point out that you were right, but to the recipient, it can feel belittling and patronizing.

When someone is already feeling down about a mistake or a wrong decision, hearing “I told you so” can add insult to injury. It’s almost as if their misfortune or error is being used as an opportunity to boost the speaker’s ego.

Instead of using this phrase, try offering support or constructive advice. Remember, everyone makes mistakes and using those moments to show understanding and empathy can go a long way in improving your social skills.

5) “Whatever”

“Whatever” is a phrase that, although seemingly harmless, can come across as dismissive and disrespectful. Often, people use it as a way to end a conversation or argument when they are no longer interested in engaging.

This kind of response can make the other person feel unheard or unimportant. It suggests that their opinion or feelings don’t matter to you, which can damage your relationship with them.

Instead of resorting to “whatever”, try expressing that you need some time to think or that you would like to discuss the topic further at a later time. This shows respect for the other person’s perspective while also maintaining your own boundaries.

6) “It’s just a joke”

“It’s just a joke” is a phrase that can be quite damaging, especially when it’s used as a defense mechanism after someone has expressed hurt or offense.

Humor is subjective, and what may seem funny to one person could be offensive or hurtful to another. Dismissing someone’s feelings with “it’s just a joke” can make them feel invalidated and belittled.

I’ve seen friendships strained and hearts broken over this phrase. It can create a divide, making the person on the receiving end feel misunderstood and disrespected.

If you find yourself tempted to use this phrase, consider apologizing for the misunderstanding instead, and take care to avoid making similar jokes in the future.

It’s crucial to respect each other’s boundaries in humor, just as in every other aspect of social interactions.

7) “You always…” or “You never…”

These absolutes can be quite damaging in conversations, especially in close relationships. I remember a time when I was having a disagreement with a close friend. In the heat of the moment, I said, “You never listen to me.” The conversation abruptly ended there.

By using “never” or “always”, it felt like I was making an unfair generalization about my friend’s behavior. It made them feel cornered and defensive, rather than open to understanding my perspective.

So, if you feel tempted to use absolute phrases like these, try to express your feelings in a less accusatory manner. For example, you might say, “I feel like I’m not being heard right now.” This reframes the problem as a shared issue that both parties can work on together.

8) “Calm down”

The phrase “calm down” is often used with the intention of diffusing a tense situation. However, it can often have the opposite effect, making the person you’re speaking to feel dismissed or patronized.

Telling someone to “calm down” can imply that their feelings are not valid or that they’re overreacting. This can escalate the situation instead of calming it.

Instead of using this phrase, try acknowledging their feelings and showing empathy. You could say something like, “I understand you’re upset, and I’m here to listen.” This shows respect for their emotions and can help to de-escalate the situation.

9) “It’s not a big deal”

The phrase “It’s not a big deal” can be harmful, especially when used to dismiss someone’s feelings or experiences. What may seem inconsequential to you might be significant to someone else.

When you brush off someone’s concern with “it’s not a big deal”, it can make them feel unheard and minimized. It’s like saying their feelings or their experience doesn’t matter.

Instead, try acknowledging their feelings or the situation. You could say something like, “I understand this is important to you.” This shows that you respect their perspective and are validating their feelings.

Final thoughts: It’s about empathy

At the heart of social interactions lies one fundamental element: empathy. Understanding and sharing the feelings of others is what connects us as human beings.

The phrases we’ve discussed in this article might stem from a lack of awareness or understanding, but they can be improved upon with practice and mindfulness.

Social skills, like any other skills, can be learned and developed. Understanding how our words might impact others is the first step towards better communication.

Whether it’s reframing your feedback, showing empathy, or avoiding dismissive phrases, small changes can make a big difference. They can transform your interactions from awkward or hurtful to supportive and respectful.

Social skills are not just about saying the right thing. They’re about making others feel heard, understood, and valued. And that’s a skill worth improving.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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