Actually there’s a lot of things we shouldn’t be saying to each other. Things that are illegal, inappropriate, outright rude – and most of the time we recognize what these things are. But there’s a group of things that somehow we forget is unacceptable to utter or even think in the direction of one of our fellow human beings. We wouldn’t want these things said to us. So why do we say them to other people?
1. You’re being oversensitive
There are not enough expletives available to be able to adequately explain to you what is wrong with saying this to someone. This is the phrase that kickstarted this whole list. I can’t understand why ANYONE ever thinks it’s okay to react to someone’s anger, hurt or other emotion with this statement. Let’s take a second to think about what it means. It suggests that someone is reacting to something in a way that you deem over the top. Maybe you wouldn’t react that way, maybe the thing to which they are reacting is no big deal to you. Well GUESS WHAT? It’s a big deal to them. So try for some attempt at understanding rather than dismissing them completely, which is what this statement is – a big fat dismissal of their feelings. It’s insulting, it’s disrespectful and it’s wrong. It’s also impossible to be oversensitive because if you are upset by something then you’re upset by it, and therefore can’t be over reacting. Let’s not measure everyone else’s THE FEELS with our own personal yardstick.
2. Urgh, that’s so boring
You can swap the above for many phrases along the same lines. Let me give you an example. The other day I asked a colleague if he was coming for a drink after work. He replied, quite reasonably ‘I can’t, I’m going to the gym’. Now, I consider going to the gym after work a cruel and unforgiving task that is carried out in a fit of guilt because I ate an entire packet of Jaffa Cakes at lunchtime (one of the Christmas ones that’s about ten feet long) and the last time I raised my heart rate above 75 was that time a few weeks ago when I thought Grey’s Anatomy hadn’t recorded. I do not go for fun. I mean, actually I do not go at all, but I certainly would never go for fun. So with that in mind I said ‘urgh, that’s so boring, don’t go to the gym, come out with us’. I’m ashamed to say that it was only when I caught sight of his forlorn face and heard him utter the words (in a tiny voice that made my heart crack) ‘I don’t find it boring’ that I realised I’d been insensitive. I immediately apologised. I know what it’s like to be into something that other people will dismiss with a sneer because they don’t find it fun. As do we all. So we should accept everyone as they are, and in my case not bully the new kid into feeling bad about his hobby.
3. ‘I promise’ (when you don’t remotely mean it)
And yes, yes, I know we’ve all done this too. I’ve done it, you’ve done it. You make a promise and at some point you fail to keep it and someone gets upset. As well they should because to have someone promise you something is a big deal and it MEANS SOMETHING and okay so I know that sometimes breaking a promise cannot be avoided but I think that a bit of foresight is a wonderful thing, and you should think hard about whether you can and are willing to keep a promise before you make it. Again, that goes for me too.
4. Don’t be so silly
This is quite an innocent sentence really, and it’s often said in a most well meaning sense. Maybe someone you know thinks they look fat and you think they look fine and so you say ‘don’t be so silly’ but what this actually means is ‘I am completely dismissing the thing you are feeling insecure about when really I should be making an effort to listen and understand’. It’s not comforting and in fact it can be a very isolating phrase.
5. How can you not like *insert thing here*?
The opposite of number 2 on this list. Someone doesn’t like a thing, and you really like it and maybe it’s an unusual thing to not like, because it’s something that’s EVERYWHERE and in EVERYTHING. So you scoff at it. For me, the thing is cheese. I’m mortally afraid of it. It’s gooey and smelly and you never know when it might turn up near you unexpectedly, smelling pungent and being generally upsetting. Most people like it, and so they say to me ‘how can you not like CHEESE? Everyone likes cheese’. Er, no they don’t. If that were true, I’d you know, like it and stuff. Then they say ‘what about on a pizza?’ Well no, because that’s cheese isn’t it. ‘What about cheesecake? You must like cheesecake’. Again, that has cheese in it. So no. And it goes on like that. It’s ridiculous. And then I meet someone who doesn’t like chocolate and I love chocolate and we have a conversation that goes like this: ‘but how can you not like chocolate?’ ‘Because I just don’t’. ‘What about Smarties? Everyone likes Smarties.’ ‘No, because they have chocolate in them’ ‘Okay but you eat chocolate cake right? That’s just got a bit of chocolate cream in the middle.’ And so you see, insensitivity creeps in everywhere, whether we mean to do it or not.
We can be quick to say things to other people that we wouldn’t like said to us. They are little things but they can sting. So let’s be thoughtful and not make each other feel 2 inches tall, like downcast Hobbits or those people from that place in Gulliver’s Travels, you know, the really little people. Or when Alice takes the potion that says ‘drink me’ and suddenly she is the size of an actual pansy. Let’s listen to each other and make each other feel all big and nice inside, like giants. In fact this Christmas, lets all be huge big giants walking around with big hearts, only saying constructive things, not absolutely ridiculous things that are rubbish in a non-obvious way and make no sense. Agreed?
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