Obviously there are very painful and grim things people sometimes have to say to each other, such as "I think you have about six months left to live" or "I'm leaving you for your best friend", but then there are also the socially insensitive things people can say or ask.
If you want to have friends, and not spend the rest of your life watching videos on your own, steer clear of the following:
What have you done to your hair?
This always implies that something negative has happened. And that it was this person's choice. Who knows, maybe they were in an accident or something went horribly wrong at the hairdressers, or they've just had chemotherapy. If you can't say something nice about someone's changed appearance, rather say nothing at all.
Well, you can always get divorced
If someone has been in an abusive relationship for fifteen years, you could say something like this. But not if they're on the point of getting married to someone you consider being dodgy. This shows that you think your friend has no taste when it comes to his/her love life (it may be true, considering that the last two are now both behind bars), but this remains someone's personal choice. Stay out of it, unless you want to make yourself deeply unpopular.
Wait until I tell you what happened to me
This is plain rude. It basically means "I'm not really listening to your story, because I am not really interested, and anyway I can top it with mine." Don't go there, unless you plan a long career as a recluse, whose phone never rings.
I know of this wonderful diet you should try
Someone else's weight or appearance is their own personal business. Never volunteer unasked-for advice. You are being rude and invasive and telling someone they are fat – believe me, they know that already. And there may be all sorts of medical problems you know nothing about or have no right to ask about. Unless someone asks you for help, don't give advice. It is simply rude and reveals more about your own obsession with appearances than it reflects true concern for the other person. And if their problem is psychological in origin, a comment like yours will have the opposite effect to what you intended.
You'll never believe what so-and-so said about you
All right, so maybe they did. But, if you were such a good friend, why were you listening to it, or even letting them say this sort of thing? And now you're using something that may have been said to you in confidence, to stir even further. Not good, not good at all. Ask yourself why you have a need to divide those around you. Why do you enjoy being the bringer of bad tidings? Does it put you in some sort of temporary position of power, or what?
Isn't that a bit of a dodgy area to live in?
So what if it is? The point is, if the person you're talking to could afford anything better, would they be living there? And, what's more, you've just made them feel that they are unfashionable, haven't made the grade and that you'll probably not be very interested in having all that much to do with them in the future. People who constantly need to denigrate others, don't feel secure within themselves.
So, do you go to church?
What does this have to do with you? If someone wanted to volunteer information regarding their spiritual beliefs, they would have done so. You are being invasive. There is also the strong implication that if this person chose not to go to church, he/she might not make the grade in your books – the opposite is also true. So what gives you the right to judge, either way?
Whatever made you choose that colour?
There is no real answer to this, as you have already implied your disapproval. Whatever reason the person gives for this choice, is going to sound lame. Don't venture an opinion unless you have been asked specifically for one.
Well, fortunately money is not a problem in my family
This makes you sound like a spoilt trust fund brat. Money is a problem to just about anyone else, so by saying this, you are just twisting the knife. It makes you sound snotty, superior, snobbish and certainly not the kind of friend most people would like to have. Unless they want to borrow money, that is.
I told you so
Parents are famous for saying this. If someone warned you against something or someone, and their predictions came true and you came horribly short, that, in itself, is already punishment enough. When you see the person who warned you, you will be painfully aware of the fact, without being reminded of it. They don't have to say a word. If they do, they only like a painful know-all that most people would try and avoid at all costs. And rightly so.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated March 2014)
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