Things You Should Never Say to a Friend
Avoid these touchy subjects
The old adage isn't really true. You can't say just anything to a friend. At least, if you expect to keep that friendship alive.
There are certain things that should remain unspoken in any relationship, no matter how many years you've been friends, or how close you are. Once something is said, it can be forgiven, but never forgotten. The damage of a hurtful statement can be irrepairable.
Here are some of the things to avoid saying to a friend. And if you simply must say something tough, how to soften the blow and make it an easier thing for them to hear.
Soften the blow
It’s always tough to know what to say to a friend, and one thing to keep in mind is that how you say it can matter as much as much as what you say.
Lisa Bahar, LMFT, LPCC, said an example of what not to say are the following:
- You look fat.
- You just don’t want to be happy.
- This is all your fault.
- Why did you do that when you knew what was going to happen?
- What’s wrong with you?
- Normal people don’t do that.
“These kind of statements are invalidating and the other person may take this and interpret them as, ‘I am bad.’ This is not to say you don't express yourself, but more of how it is that you find yourself wanting to say these things. Once you can identify that, then perhaps the communication can be softened and related in a more effective considerate way to your friend,” she said.
When you feel like you must say something, you need to take a step back and stop yourself from saying something that may be hurtful or unkind. "Reflect and observe and then proceed by either saying nothing or reframing saying something more gentle. Replace judgment words with descriptive words and avoid assuming or interpreting," Bahar said.
Five things not to say
John Boese, founder of GoFindFriends.com, shared his top five phrases that friends shouldn’t say:
- You can do better than him. This is a double insult. It says that her significant other isn't good enough and that she's settling. Even if you can't stand your friend's significant other, don't tell her so. Stay positive and just tell your friend what a great catch she is.
- You should see a therapist. It can be tough when your friend is having difficulties and leaning on you constantly. But telling her that her problems require professional help is going a bit too far. Come up with ideas on other friends or family members that she can talk to but don't play the therapist card.
- You're so lucky. This can imply that your friend didn't earn or deserve some good aspect of her life. So unless she just won the lottery, tell her that you're happy for her and you hope to get to that point too in your life.
- Your life is perfect. Sometimes your friend seems to have an amazing life; one that you want for yourself. It can be tempting to let this phrase slip out, but don't let it. Even though your friend may have the husband, kids, house, and dog that you dream of, they also have all the other problems that come with it. Stick with just telling her how you're working towards some of the same life goals.
- That makes you look fat. You think you're being helpful, but you're not. Never, ever, use the "F" word. Even when shopping with your best friend. If you have to say something, just tell her that the outfit isn't well-fitted.
After a breakup
Patty Blue Hayes, author of Wine, Sex and Suicide - My Near Death Divorce, shared the five things you should never say to a friend after a breakup or divorce:
“I never liked him anyway, he didn't deserve you.”
This leaves your friend thinking that all those years she laughed at his jokes at holiday gatherings, chatted him up at your birthday party and joined you for board game nights were all a sham. It leaves her feeling you've been dishonest with her for years by keeping your true thoughts to yourself.
“You'll find someone better.”
If I could shake the shoulders of everyone who said this to me after my husband walked out. Your girlfriend is grieving and experiencing profound feelings of loss and longing. She can barely drag herself out of bed and brush her teeth, she's not thinking of her next relationship. Honor her feelings by allowing her to feel what she's feeling. Simply telling her, "I know you're heart hurts right now. I'm here for you," will give her the empathy she needs.
“It's his loss.”
She's not really feeling that way. It's her loss. She's the one feeling the pain, the emptiness and the void where he'd been in her life. Don't deflect the loss to him, that only makes her feel worse wondering why he doesn't see it that way. Address her feelings and how she's missing the absence of her guy in her life. She's missing him in the tiny ways couple's create their habits together, ordering "the usual" at the local diner, exchanging quotes from their favorite movie, the morning routine of pressing coffee and walking the dog are all her micro-losses. Instead, ask her to talk about the ways in which she misses him. Grab some tissues and listen to her. That's what she needs right now.
“I knew he was cheating with that girl.”
Please hold your tongue on this one. She does not need to hear this right now. If you have evidence, concrete, factual evidence – perhaps consider broaching this subject in time, but not in the immediate weeks after her split. Her trust in you will plummet, she'll wonder why this is the first time you've told her.
“I talked to him to see how he's doing.”
Right now, she just needs you to agree the guy was a dud. You may choose to remain friendly with her ex, but she doesn't need to know this now or even ever. Think how you would feel if your BFF reached out to the guy who broke your heart. Have some empathy and compassion and common sense.