Phrases to Think Twice About

Sometimes we say things to friends we don’t mean. Common phrases that
come out during a conversation often come across wrong. Therapist Julie
Hanks, shares a catch phrases to watch out for.

Close female friends are some of life’s greatest treasures. It’s comforting to
know that you can count on another woman to understand what you’re going
through, or to just vent and say whatever is on your mind. Just the other day
someone pointed out that my friend and colleague Clair and I were finishing
each other’s sentences during a work meeting. We didn’t even realize it
because we were “in sync” and finishing each other’s sentences accurately.

Though we know our girlfriends so well, it can be helpful, at times, to take a
step back and look at commonly used phrases and some of the hidden
messages that might be hurting those we love.

1) You are so lucky!

When your friend enjoys a success in life, say finds an amazing man to
marry, gets a promotion, or gets the top score on a college exam, do the
words, “You’re so lucky!” come out of your mouth? This phrase might imply
that women didn’t work for their success or accomplishment.

For example, a dear friend of mine works part-time a few evenings a week
when her husband is home and makes really good money. It might be easy to
say, “She’s so lucky,” because she has a good paying, flexible job. She didn’t
feel so lucky during medical school and pediatric residency.

Try this phrase instead: Congratulations! You’ve worked really hard.

2) I know how you feel.

When trying to empathize with a friend’s painful life event it’s easy to say, “I
know just how you feel.” But do you really know? This phrase may feel
minimizing of a friend’s unique experience and feelings.

I remember working with a client who’s was devastated by her mother’s
passing. I remember her saying how she hated when people who’d also lost a
parent would say, “I know how you feel. I lost my mom, too.” Her relationship
with her mom wasn’t a typical nurturing relationship. It was fraught with
conflict, and she had been the emotional caretaker of her mother.

Try this phrase instead: “Tell me more about what you’re feeling…”

3) Didn’t you realize…?

When your friend shares a decision that didn’t work out so well have you ever
said “Didn’t you realize…?” Remember that hindsight is 20/20. You are
stating the obvious with the benefit of hindsight and subtly saying maybe
she’s not that bright.

Let’s say, for example, that your friend Leslie shared some of her marital
struggles with another mutual friend Jen who didn’t keep her confidence and
Leslie is telling you that she’s really upset about it. You say to Leslie, “Didn’t
you realize that she’d blab your problems to the neighborhood?” In that
phrase you’re implying that your friend is should have known better and isn’t
very smart.

Try this phrase instead: “Oh, that’s tough!”

4) Don’t you think…?

When you start out a question by saying “Don’t you think…?” it’s usually a
statement in disguise. It’s a way of saying what you think and feel without
really saying it. This phrase implies that you’ve already made up your mind
and that there is a right answer.

Say your friend is telling you that she’s taken away car privileges for a month
from her 16 year old because he was 10 minutes late for curfew. And you
say, “Don’t you think that’s a little extreme?” Obviously, your friend doesn’t
think it’s extreme or she wouldn’t have done it. What you really mean is, “I
think that consequence is a bit extreme for being a few minutes late.”

Try this phrase instead: “I think….”

5) If I were you I would…

This phrase assumes that you know what it’s like to be in your friend’s
situation and that you know best what she should do. I

I’ve worked with a woman in the process of a very complicated divorce whose
well-meaning friends were constantly giving advice on the divorce process.
Often the advice reflects their friend’s emotions and not what’s best for my
client. “If I were you I’d never let him see those kids again until he pays you
your share” or “If I were you I’d expose all of his indiscretions to the whole

Try this phrase instead: “Have you thought about…?

6) It’s not a big deal

While the phrase, “It’s not a big deal” is an honest attempt at comforting and
cheering up your friend, it may also seem like she doesn’t have a right to her
intense emotions.

I once worked with a woman who was in a leadership position at her church
and felt hurt by the comments of others who compared her to the previous
leader. When she shared her hurt with her closest friend, her friend
responded, “Why are you making such a big deal about it?” My client to me
that she felt misunderstood and that her friend minimized her emotions.

Try this phrase instead: “Help me understand why that was so upsetting to

Add comment