Most people don’t ever intend to come off as mean, judgmental, or insensitive. But no matter how hard we try to be conscientious of others, there are many ways that our words can be offensive. A beautiful thing about humanity is that we all come from different walks of life, and have different tastes, interests, bodies, and beliefs. With this in mind, it’s important to be intentional in the ways we interact with others, and keep in mind that what we say can be hurtful. Below is a list of a few things you should and shouldn’t say to those around you.

Don’t say “I’m gonna go gay” after being frustrated by a breakup. Gay and lesbian people don’t have the luxury of “going straight” because their situation isn’t working out (not to mention the fact that identifying as gay, bisexual, or lesbian often comes with tons of struggle that straight people will never have to deal with). Unless you really are coming out slowly, don’t say that. There is just no need.


Part of being a decent person means not dumping your judgement on others. That means not using negative language or words to comment on someone else’s taste. Image: Vernon Tang via Flickr CC.

Don’t say, “Gross what’s that smell?” when your coworker takes out and opens their lunch. Part of being a decent person means not dumping your judgment onto others. Expand your flavor horizons and be a bit more understanding of things that are foreign to you, including the tastes of others.

Additionally, nobody around you needs to be eating the same way that you are. Your friends don’t necessarily want to be vegan. Why do you care how they eat anyways? Let them be.

Don’t say, “You look great! Have you lost weight?” Remember that words and their meanings matter. Instead, just tell them how great they look without bringing their weight into it. Offering more general compliments or complimenting their style or smile instead of focusing on size contributes to a much more body positive world that isn’t so weight and dieting-obsessed.

Don’t ever question someone’s religion or how they believe in god, especially in a professional setting. As long as they aren’t oppressing or hurting anybody, just let it be. Forcing someone to defend their beliefs is completely rude and can lead to a lot of tension between coworkers or friends.

You should always say “please” or “thank you.” Don’t miss any opportunity to say these simple, nice words. Don’t just look down at your phone when you’re ordering a coffee or when someone offers to help you. Give eye contact and be genuinely engaged in the interactions you share with those around you.