I love people. I love getting to know new people and connecting with old friends.
But people can say some pretty stupid things. Often it’s completely unintentional and we are unaware, but our words carry weight and without realizing it, we can hurt others with seemingly innocent comments. I personally know this all too well.
Here are FIVE THINGS that you need to stop saying…and what you can say instead:
”YOU LOOK REALLY TIRED.”
What Others Hear: “You don’t look so great. What’s going on in your life that you couldn’t get a good night sleep? Did you stay up binge watching “Making Of A Murderer?”
Why It’s Not Helpful: What do you honestly expect that person to do with your sleepiness assessment? Should they go take a nap? Should they head to the bathroom and freshen up?
Saying this to someone doesn’t help because it comes subtly loaded with judgement. What you’re really saying is “You don’t look good”…which no one likes to hear. While you may believe that’s coming from a place of care and concern, I guarantee you that it’s not being received that way.
Instead Try: “It’s great to see you!”….that’s it. Keep the Directors Commentary to yourself.
”YOU’RE JUST SO BUSY.”
What Others Hear: “Your life seems out of control. You should do a better job of managing your schedule.”
Why It’s Not Helpful: Because it comes loaded with your own personal judgement of how someone’s life should be run. It’s also possible that it’s connected to a sense of insecurity that you feel about YOUR OWN LIFE and why you’re not “doing as much” as them.
Instead Try: “How are you doing?”…or…if you want to get all Quaker on ’em, “How is it with your soul these days?”
”YOU SEEM REALLY EMOTIONAL.”
What Others Hear: “I’m uncomfortable with where you’re at right now…and let’s be honest…I’m actually uncomfortable with YOU.”
Why It’s Not Helpful: This doesn’t help people for multiple reasons. The first is that you’re basically saying that what this person is feeling in the moment makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s a subtle form of rejection at a vulnerable moment when what that person most likely wants from you is acceptance and to know that you are with them. The second reason this doesn’t help is that the word “emotional” is incredibly vague and unspecific. And it also implies that their emotions are “bad” and unwelcome.
Instead Try: “I hear you…how does that make you feel…tell me more…”
”I’M SURE IT WILL ALL WORK OUT.”
What Others Hear: “I’m not really willing to live in this tension with you. In fact, I’m not even sure what you’re so worked up about. Can we change the subject?”
Why It’s Not Helpful: This one is tricky, because you may actually be right. Things might actually all work out. If you know God, than you know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him…BUT…that’s not always helpful in the moment. And phrases like “It’ll all work out” or “I’m sure it’ll all be fine” can be dismissive and defeating to someone who is right in the middle of whatever it is that they are facing or fearing.
Instead Try: “I’m with you…whatever may come.”
”I’LL PRAY FOR YOU.”
What Others Hear: “You can count on me to go before God on your behalf.”
Why It’s Not Helpful: Because it can be inauthentic and often untrue.
Unless you are really committed to regularly praying for this person (rather than forgetting about what they shared 5 minutes later), it’s best not said. That may sound “unspiritual“,
but what’s more “unspiritual“:
Saying you’re going to pray for someone…and not actually praying for them?
Not saying that you’re going to pray for them?
Instead Try: “I will do my best to pray for you as God brings you to mind”….OR….”Can I pray with you right now?” (hint: the second one is always better!)
James, the brother of Jesus reminds us of the power of our words in James 3:9-10:
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings,
who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
You have an incredible opportunity every time you open our mouth to either breath life or to suck all the air out of the room. To honor God or to hurt others. To hold space or to shut down.
Let’s commit to ditching these dead phrases and to choosing words of love and life.
What About You?
- Which of these phrases have you heard recently?
- Which of these phrases have you used lately?
- Which one bugs you the most?!?
- Which ones did I miss?
ex. – When is the baby due? (when there is no baby)