8 Ordinary Phrases With Surprising Hidden Meanings

I love words. I really do. I’m a logophile, a bibliophile, a lexiphile. As long as we’re still using words to communicate, I will continue to take care in what I say and write. Once things are spoken and, more commonly these days, texted/messaged/otherwise written, they can’t be taken back.

What you have to say is important to the people around you, including what they may think you actually mean.

As it turns out, words can have meanings we don’t intend, but that’s what they sound like to another person.

Here we’ll reveal 8 common phrases you use, reinterpret them, and give you some helpful alternatives.

I hate…

Hatred is intrinsically unhelpful and you don’t generally mean that you hate whatever you’re talking about. It’s a word with too generalized a meaning, one we use for everything from laundry detergent to genocide. If you strongly dislike something, try stating that, and then explaining yourself. If you see an injustice being perpetuated, don’t talk about it. Do something about it. Use your actions as well as your words to communicate love instead of hate. I see hate as a kind of sticky-tar word, one that once you brush it on, you can’t ever really get it all off.

He/she is an idiot.

Gossip is intrinsically unattractive. Aside from being too grade-school to even consider as adult behavior, it leaves your audience wondering what you’re saying about them behind their backs. If you think a person is behaving in a truly damaging or grossly incompetent manner, have a discussion with them about it privately. Don’t worry about notifying anyone else; they’ll come to terms with it on their own if they really are incompetent or damaging. And if they’re truly not, you look like a gossip and a liar.

I had no choice.

Really? You’re going to use that one to try to justify your behavior? The problem is, it is inherently untrue. We always have a choice. Always. Denying that you have a choice is removing you from responsibility for your actions. A better phrase would be “I had to make a difficult choice,” as that assures your audience that you are taking responsibility.

This may be a silly idea.

Also, multiple variations: this may sound stupid, this is probably ridiculous, etc. All you are doing in saying this is prepping your audience for a silly idea. Or stupid one, a ridiculous one…you get the point. If you’re lacking confidence in what you’re about to discuss, the last thing you want to do is tell your audience that. Let them judge for themselves. It likely isn’t as silly or dumb or absurd or whatever you think, after all.

It’s not fair.

Can we talk for a minute about how frequently I hear this now that I’m well into adulthood? Very infrequently. I don’t know if I just choose to surround myself with mature people or what, but whining about something not being fair needs to be left for very young children. If you’re an adult and this is still your mentality, you’ve gotta get out of that victim mentality and start taking action to change things in your world, to change your worldview on things. Whining about things not being fair just lets people know you’re about to have the adult version of a two-year old’s temper tantrum.

It’s not my fault.

Adults take responsibility for their behavior. If something truly isn’t your fault, stating it doesn’t assure anyone but yourself. The situation itself will bear out the truth. And if something is your fault, accepting responsibility for it is the adult thing to do, and shows your good character.

I’m entitled to my opinion.

That is true. You are. That does not, however, make it correct, true, or in any way fact-based. If you need to declare this, it hollers that you are insecure in what you’re thinking and unsure about its veracity. Research issues that get you charged up so that if you are in a discussion about them you can state facts about it, not opinions. If you can instead state, “I read a study which showed…” or “Research on this subject has born out…” or something along those lines, people are much more likely to take you seriously.

No offense, but…

This phrase actually means the opposite of what you may think it means, if you use it a lot. Saying “no offense, but…” is like stating, “I know that what I am about to say will hurt you, but I don’t care. I’m saying it anyway.” You’re basically saying you lack basic consideration for that person. I don’t really have an alternative for this unless you are comfortable saying, “Hey, I know this is going to hurt you, but I’m going to say it anyway.” Which begs the question: why would you say anything? In this particular situation I think just keeping your mouth closed is probably a good idea. As our parents taught us when we were very young: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Nobody needs your offensive commentary.

What do you think of this article? Do you use any of these phrases frequently? Does this resonate with what you’ve heard others around you say? We’d love your comments on this.

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