7 Phrases You Think Are Harmless, But Actually Come Off As Rude

You say a lot of things to a lot of people on any given day, ranging from nice pleasantries to serious discussions and everything in between. Not only that, but, since you're not always happy and charming, your conversations and comments sometimes aren't so cheerful either. When dealing with other people, you probably try to be as polite as possible, at least most of the time, but sometimes things happen and, for whatever reason, you say something rude. Oftentimes, you probably recognize that what you said wasn't very nice, but there are also some phrases you say thinking they're harmless, but actually come off as rude without you even realizing it.

The last thing you want to do when interacting with coworkers, friends, family members, customer service reps, and others is to be rude to them for no reason without even realizing that what you're saying is making them feel slighted. And while you probably don't think too much about the things that you're saying that you think sound harmless, reflecting on how someone else might react to it can help you determine whether or not your initial judgment of "no big deal" was correct or not. No one wants to be made to feel dumb, wrong, or put down, so making sure that you're not unintentionally making someone feel terrible can be pretty important.


"In My Opinion..."

While it might sound completely benign, this phrase can sometimes come off as rude to those hearing it. In an interview with Bustle, Tania Babienko, a licensed marriage and family therapist, said that prefacing your comment with "in my opinion" means that you're likely simply offering up your opinion even if no one asked for it. Rather than noting that this is what you think and you're going to tell them whether they want to hear it or not (especially if it's going to be something that's not very nice), first consider if you need to toss in your two cents, then try to come up with a gentler way to say it.


"I Was Surprised By/Confused About..."

Genuinely asking for an explanation of something you didn't understand (like offering up your opinion) isn't a bad thing, but you need to be careful about the context and the kinds of messages this statement is sending. In a post that she wrote for The Muse, writer Jennifer Winter wrote that a passive aggressive "I was surprised by/confused about..." can send the message to the other person that they did or said something incorrectly, even if they didn't. Again, politely saying that you're not quite following and asking them to go through how they arrived at this conclusion might allow the comments to land more gently. The feedback is probably valid, but you could say it in a nicer way.



In a different post for The Muse, writer Aja Frost wrote that she realized that when she uses the word "actually," it's often to correct someone. It can make whoever you're talking to feel like you don't think they're all that bright or capable, plus it's a little, well, grating and rude. It might be unintentional, but it's still a bit rude.


"As You Know..."

This phrase can serve to make sure that everyone's on the same page, but it can also come off as a little condescending. Digital marketing expert Josh Steimle talked to consultant Michael W. Byrnes, Jr. about things that can ruin business for a post that he wrote for Forbes and Byrnes Jr. said that it can sound patronizing or even make the person you're talking to feel silly for not knowing.


"I'm Just Trying To Be Honest."

Prefacing (or following up) a statement with "I'm just trying to be honest" is like when you say "No offense, but..." It's a way to give yourself permission to say things that might not actually be OK and you maybe shouldn't say. In an interview with Bustle for the aforementioned article, couples' counselor Julienne Derichs said that just because it's true and you're being honest, doesn't mean that you should say it.



Again, "obviously" can make someone feel stupid, which probably shouldn't ever be your goal. In Steimle's previously-mentioned article, he wrote that Andi Enns, a business growth coach, said that this can be a bad thing to say because you're telling someone that since it's obvious to you, it should be obvious to them as well. That's not always how it works. Not only that, but oftentimes the "obviously" is unnecessary. Just say what you were going to say without the qualifier.


"I Saw That."

You might not think that telling someone that you already saw the email or piece of information that they're telling you about is a big deal, but it can come off as rude sometimes. In the aforementioned Forbes article, Ginger Jenks, from Magellan Enterprises, told Steimle that it makes it seem like you're saying that you're way ahead of them. Instead, simply say thanks and show your appreciation that they shared it with you and move on with your conversation.

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