Is there anything worse than a passive-aggressive response? What about a response that is designed to make you feel small or to belittle your problems? Or a response that is intended to make you seem uptight or ridiculous?
There are loads of phrases and expressions out there that are in common usage that do all of these things. I would lay money on the fact that many people use them without giving it a second thought. Perhaps they don’t even notice that they have been dismissive to a friend or maybe they’ve said something cruel yet phrased it in a way they think absolves them of any negative intent.
With that in mind, I started a list of crappy things we say to each other, then I narrowed it down to 4. I’ve had them said to me enough times to know that being on the receiving end of them is not helpful at all, unless it’s been a day where I particularly needed inspiration to roll my eyes.
4 Things We Should Stop Saying:
This is tacked on to the end of potentially offensive or inflammatory comments. I’m not entirely sure how we came to a point where we could say horrible things and then think we could justify them by pointing out that we were “just sayin'” them. Of course you just said that bloody awful thing. I heard you or I read your comment- putting just sayin’ on the end doesn’t make it less rude, less offensive or less judgy. It means nothing at all. It’s pointing out the obvious. For example, “Sally should not wear tights with her thighs, I’m just sayin’!” You might be just sayin’, but you’re also still being rude, judgy and mean. Just sayin’.
Suggested replacement: nothing. If you want to say something potentially inflammatory or offensive, go right ahead. But be prepared to own it. Meaningless, passive-aggressive words won’t help you.
Apparently, adding this to the beginning or the end of a remark you know is offensive will negate that. It gives you the right to say something truly awful to another person while simultaneously removing their right to feel offended by your comments. Fucking magical how those two little words can control the emotional response of another person, isn’t it? If only it worked that way! It’s like people think of it as a get out of gaol free card; they can be as rude as they like or say the cruelest things and somehow, those two words will negate any negative impact. It doesn’t work, guys! If you tell someone they suck at something, that is all they will hear. The “no offence” you added to your remark is meaningless because you don’t get to decide how other people react to your words. If you don’t intend to offend, there’s a better way to go about it.
Suggested replacement: nothing. Don’t say offensive things to people you don’t want to offend. If you must say something, make sure it is constructive and helpful instead of shitty and cruel.
Too Politically Correct.
Ever been told you are “too PC”? I have. At it’s core, political correctness means using language which is designed to not offend or disadvantage any particular group of people. Isn’t that just the worst thing you’ve ever heard of? In my experience, as a woman on the Internet and as someone who used to have some jerky friends, I used to cop the “too PC” comments if I called someone on their racism, supported the idea that Australia should help refugees, made comments about sexism, shared articles about women’s issues or basically expressed an opinion on anything. Essentially, people use it to try to silence other people. I think people feel uncomfortable if their discriminatory remarks or ignorance is revealed, so “too PC” is now just a catch-phrase used to try to shut down the person making them uncomfortable, however inadvertently. More often than not, it seems to be flung out as a defence mechanism by someone who doesn’t actually know what it means.
Suggested replacement: Think first. If you are about to call someone too PC, remember for a minute what PC actually means- that they don’t want to offend or disadvantage anyone. If something they said, shared or pointed out makes you uncomfortable, maybe reflect on why that is. It might help you become a better person, who knows?
First World Problems.
This one probably came from a good place at some point. It offered us perspective when it came to minor life problems, it was a gentle reminder that people in the world have it a lot tougher than we do. It mean that, say, missing out on concert tickets should be seen for what it is: a disappointment but not the end of the world . However, like everything, people over-used it. Now it’s thrown at every problem, big and small, so lacks the impact it once may have had. Instead, it’s a way to minimise someone’s distress, to belittle their concerns. For example, if I receive a large bill that I will struggle to pay, telling me that it is a first world problem does exactly fuck all to help me. I know it’s a first world problem. I live in the first world. All of my problems could be termed first world problems. Labeling them doesn’t solve any of them. It also has the flow-on effect of diminishing my problem. Like struggling with a huge bill, feeling worried and stressed, is not worthy of the care and attention of others. It tells me that I have no right to voice my problems.
Talking about our problems, seeking advice or help or even just the empathy of others is quite normal. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about people who are suffering elsewhere. It doesn’t mean that you think your ridiculously huge power bill is more important than children working in sweat shops or women sold into slavery. Perspective is always valuable but this expression just doesn’t offer it any more.
Suggested replacement: Help. Empathise. Be kind. If your friend is having a problem, that is your role. Sometimes we all just need a vent. You can offer perspective if it’s needed (and sometimes it definitely is) while also acknowledging someone’s frustrations or personal struggles without diminishing them. It’s part of being a friend who isn’t a jerk.
Have you got any phrases that belong on this list?
#IBOT @ Essentially Jess.