How to Avoid Using Cruel Words

Two Parts:Thinking About Your WordsTalking with Others

Let’s be honest, we aren’t always happy with other people. Sometimes they’ve done or said something that gets on our nerves and deserves a response. One thing to avoid, though, is being unnecessarily mean or cruel. Prepare yourself by thinking about the ways you might be cruel to someone, and find ways to reduce them. Also be prepared to react properly when in conversation, so you don’t slip and say something you don’t really want to say. A change in mindset is a good way to prevent yourself from cruel words, making you a nicer and more pleasant person.

Part 1
Thinking About Your Words

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    Identify your hostile phrase patterns. There are several regular ways in which people can be cruel to one another. These statements hurt people in different ways, but can all be cruel and cause mistrust and anger. By identifying the kinds of phrases you use when talking to others, you can think more carefully about not using them in the future.[1]
    • Character assassination. This a broad statement that defines a person rather than highlighting a specific complaint. These statements suggest that the other person is innately bad or valueless, and won’t solve your problems.
    • Invalidation. This is another way of responding to a person’s position without actually responding to it. You are diminishing the person’s perspective or views as not worth a response. Rather than address what the person is saying, you respond by saying “That’s just stupid” or “You’re just not making any sense.”
    • Challenging. Similar to invalidation, you are responding to a person’s points by dismissing them, or using it as a chance to show how dumb you think they are. Mean challenges include saying things like “How could you say something so stupid?” or “Do you even know what you are talking about?”
    • Preaching. This is responding to another person by scolding them and what they are saying. This can be mean or hurtful if you are talking to someone who isn’t necessarily your subordinate, and therefore shouldn’t be receiving that kind of response. Statements like “You ought to know better than doing that,” or “You are so immature” attack the person’s behavior and treat them like a scolded child.
    • Threat of abandonment. This suggests the person you are talking to is worthless, or at least not worth talking to. Statements like “I don’t care what you do,” or “I don’t need this anymore” suggest you are prepared to walk away, and that the other person has no meaning to you.
    • Threat of exile. This is similar to abandonment, but more direct. Cruel statements like his are things like “Just get out,” or “I don’t want to deal with this, just get lost.” Rather than suggesting that you don’t care, you are actively pushing the person away.
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    Find positive things to say about others. When you are in a good mood, find good things to say about other people, whether to their faces, others, or just yourself. Thinking positive thoughts will help incline you more towards compassion and understanding, and less likely to use cruel words when you are angry or upset. Plus, saying nice things to others will help them think better of you, and respond in kind.[2]
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    Don’t swear. Find ways to get profanity out of your language. Cursing might feel good, but it’s a lazy way to communicate. Plus, the more you use it, the more likely it is to slip out into conversations where you don’t want it, which is a good way to offend someone.[3]
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    Think about how other people see the world. Sometimes cruelty comes from not understanding another person’s perspective. You can insult them without even meaning to because you haven’t thought about their point of view. Remember that other people see the world differently from you, and accept that they may find things cruel that you don’t imagine are.
    • One way to do this is to talk to someone who you know disagrees with you. Ask them about their beliefs, and make sure to listen, rather than argue, with their response.[4]

Part 2
Talking with Others

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    Calm yourself down when angry. If you feel yourself getting angry, and are concerned that is might express itself by saying something cruel, find ways to relax yourself quickly. Try some deep breathing from the gut to slow your heartrate, or find a way to think briefly about something else. Repeating a simple mantra like “relax” or “take it easy” is one good way, or visualizing a relaxing experience.[5]
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    Make any complaints specific. Avoid broad generalizations about a person’s work or activities. By keeping it specific, you can give the other person something tangible to fix. Broader statements about a person’s character are more likely to be taken personally, and are harder to overcome.[6]
    • Specific complaints include referring to moments, saying things like “You drive me crazy when you do that,” or “That was really selfish of you.” These are better than more general statements about a person’s self-worth, such as “Why do I even try? You’ll never get it” or “You only care about yourself.”
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    Explain what you are saying. Sometimes, people can be cruel because they respond to something quickly. A short response can easily be misinterpreted, so try to expand your answers with an explanation. This lets the other person know what you are trying to say, rather than letting them guess.[7]
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    Tell someone if they hurt you. Allowing someone else to be cruel to you can build anger and resentment, which makes it more likely you will respond in kind. If someone is being cruel to you, address it directly. This is someone you will see often, so not addressing it will more likely lead to greater problems later.[8]
    • Use “I” statements. One cruel way to respond to someone hurting you is to accuse them of doing things wrong. You will probably get an accusatory response right back. A nicer way to get your message across is to talk about how it makes you feel. Saying “I feel diminished when you talk to me that way” is much better than telling someone “That was rude” or “How could you be so dismissive to me.”
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    Don’t talk to that person. If you are angry with someone, and feel that you aren’t going to be able to control yourself from saying something mean or cruel, do something else. Find an activity to take your mind off of your angry feelings, and let them dissipate before you talk to that person.[9]
    • This can be reading a book, listening to music, or talking to a friend. Anything that will help calm you down and take your mind off of how angry you are.


  • If you see someone else being cruel to others, don’t be afraid to say so. There’s nothing wrong with trying to remove cruelty from the world, wherever you see it.

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Categories: Manners | Personal Development