Avoid These Phrases

Avoid These Phrases

It’s all too easy to say the wrong thing; sometimes it’s just a matter of how you phrase something that causes etiquette snafus. Real Simple has rounded up 18 common phrases you should avoid, and what to say instead.Photo by Sharon Mollerus.

The recommendations cover work and personal situations. For example:

  • Rather than tell a newly single person “You were too good for him” (implying she had bad taste), instead say “His loss!”, which communicates the same thing.
  • At work, if your supervisor asks you to do something outside your responsibilities, don’t say “That’s not my job.” A better approach would be to say it probably shouldn’t be your priority and then discuss your responsibilities with your boss.
  • This one’s probably obvious, but when applying for a job, don’t bad-mouth your old/current boss or employer.
  • And my favourite, because it’s true: Don’t tell someone they look tired, which might make her feel like she looks awful. Instead ask how the other person is doing or if everything is OK.

Find other recommended ways to say more polite and appropriate things in the article below.

18 Common Phrases to Avoid in Conversation [Real Simple]


  • Here’s one that most women have no idea of, even though it’s obviously simple (yes, I’m implying women are stupid):
    Don’t bad mouth a friends partner the second they break up. They will probably get back together and then your friend won’t want to be around you anymore. Remember people aren’t in a relationship if it’s all bad, as a friend you may only (or predominately) hear negative aspects of the relationship, but rest assured in most cases the good out weighs the bad.

    • Men are just as guilty of this. Besides, it’s ludicrous to imply that “they will probably get back together”–most of the time, a relationship ends for good.

      Also, “Anon”, if you’re going to call anybody stupid, it helps to make sure you actually know how to spell. Not being a grammar nazi here, just pointing out the hypocrisy on your part.

      • Touchy much? I agree that this is not gender-specific, but it is definitely a valid suggestion. And, how hard is it not to bitch about someone for a while?

  • I feel if people are going to take things the wrong way, perhaps they have some issues. Whenever anyone says anything to me similar on the list, I always think that perhaps people mean well, even if they do word things a little clumsily.

  • I can’t stand it when I hear people say “That’s not my job”. If someone senior to you asks you to do it, and you’re being paid, it’s exactly your job!

    • Gotta disagree. That’s what job descriptions are for; your job is your job, it’s not to be there to do whatever the senior person says (unless that’s actually the job).

      Sure, it’s not smart to refuse to do things outside your job, and it’s usually not even a bother – but if your workplace isn’t making you feel like part of a team, it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to do things outside your area. Need either a change in attitude or a change in job.

    • Craig, you must get roped into doing a lot of other people’s work for them. And no matter how ‘senior’ someone is, I’m not gonna do someone’s else’s job (that THEY get paid for) without my direct report’s approval.

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