The 10 Most Dysfunctional Things Ever Uttered
They don’t get worse than these — the ten comments that signify the very most dysfunction possible.
In no particular order:
1. “I did nothing wrong. You’re just oversensitive.”
It’s not that there aren’t people in the world who are highly sensitive. It’s just that even if the person being spoken to were oversensitive, this comment is only going to make them feel much worse! It offers no help, and only rubs salt in the wound.
It is a critical statement of low empathy — there’s no effort to truly understand the other person’s feelings or to consider that maybe the speaker could possibly have done even one small thing a little more considerately to try helping matters.
In addition, it’s most often said by people who are not actually dealing with someone who’s “too sensitive”, but instead, someone who is actually expressing normal dismay about a valid concern.
2. “That’s just the way it is.”
While it’s true there’s no point denying that the sky has always been blue and grass will be forever green, making the above comment in order to shut down someone’s concerns or curiosity about a given situation is a different matter.
Such a comment displays a high level of dysfunctionality, typically related to disempowerment, denial, defensiveness, closed-mindedness and attempts at control of others.
Inflexibility and difficulty with change is common in the personality disorder called OCPD, and in autism spectrum disorders.
3. “Why can’t you be more like so-and-so?”
Trying to tell someone to be more like someone else is self-centered. If you’re dealing with a person who is self-important enough to think that other people should conform to their personal preferences (and need only be asked to do so) you’re likely dealing with someone characteristically narcissistic.
4. “I’m sorry you feel that way/I’m sorry if you…/I’m sorry, but…”
If a person cannot say, “I’m sorry I did that/I’m sorry I hurt you/I’m sorry I was wrong”, and dodges emotional responsibility with the kind of fake apologies and substitutions above, there’s a problem.
Healthy relationships require genuine apologies that are the result of empathy. Inability to truly sense other people’s feelings is at the root of an incredible amount of dysfunction, and unwillingness to admit mistakes is highly dysfunctional behavior.
5. “You always/You never…”
It’s unlikely the person NEVER or ALWAYS does whatever is complained about. It’s more likely it happens a lot. Or, it happens too often for the person’s liking.
Saying “always” or “never” when complaining about someone’s behavior makes them feel as if you aren’t trying to resolve the matter with them — you’re trying to condemn them.
When people have difficult issues they wish they didn’t struggle with, and they’re making very little progress on them, it’s very painful to be told by someone they care about that they “always” or “never” do something. It causes them to lose hope, and more importantly, it causes them to lose hope that you are on their side against the difficulty, and that you do believe in them and see their hard-earned minor improvements.
6. “You’re not smart enough to do that/you’ll never amount to anything/you’re an idiot.”
This one needs no explanation. It’s just abusive, plain and simple. If this has been said to you, remember, it’s projection — people who say this have a tremendous fear that they themselves are the “stupid” one.
Everyone has something to offer. Everyone is good at something, and a comment like this is nothing but a reflection of the speaker’s own insecurities and fears. Typically, abusive people will pick the moment of a mistake to utter this, but everyone makes mistakes, including the person saying it, and their comment means nothing about the listener. People are not their mistakes, and are not necessarily what other people say they are.
7. “I told you so.”
All people have a right to make their own choices, and to disagree with others. People who tell other people what’s supposedly best and then pounce on them if their alternate choice doesn’t work are seeking to gain future control of the independent person by shaming them. Shame fuels dysfunction, and should not be accepted.
8. “You are ‘choosing’ to feel bad about the upsetting thing I did or said.”
This is highly invalidating. The person who says this is not making any effort to empathize, is refusing to take responsibility for the impact of their behavior on others, and is trying to blame the person they have hurt.
Feelings aren’t even processed in the same area of the brain as thoughts. If someone threatens you, you will feel fear. You’re not “choosing” fear; fear is an immediate, natural and healthy response to being in a threatening situation. If someone you love dies, you will feel sad. You are not “choosing” to feel sad about their death. Sadness is a normal, healthy response to the loss of someone. If your sibling, partner or other person you are close to says something insensitive or cruel, you will feel hurt. You’re not “choosing” to feel hurt; it is a natural and healthy response to unkindness.
Telling someone who feels hurt that they have “chosen” to feel hurt is generally a way of avoiding responsibility by making the hurt person retreat in shame that they have done “wrong”. They’re supposed to “choose” properly by letting the person who hurt them off the hook, and instead, focusing on their own “bad choices”.
9. “You wouldn’t understand”.
This kind of dismissiveness and condescension is seen in people who harbor the belief that they are superior and should ideally be the one in control, because of their supposed superiority. The arrogance of such a statement is more than rude and devaluing — it indicates that the person’s intention is to shut you out and shut you down so they can propagate the perception that they are “better” than you.
10. “What they don’t know can’t hurt them.”
If a person hasn’t found out that their spouse is cheating, or that somebody took advantage of them in some way they haven’t realized, it’s true that they won’t feel hurt.
But… the person who says this is a cheater; the person who says this is taking advantage. It’s wise to steer clear of people like this, because they care much more about themselves than other people, and they lack integrity. This is highly characteristic of mentally disordered thinking, and the person who says it will most likely one day be the person who takes advantage of you, too. The presence of a good conscience doesn’t depend on circumstances or individuals present.
If there’s no conscience nagging at them when they take advantage of someone other than you, there will be no conscience nagging at them when it’s your turn to be the one in their way.
Join us next time — we’ll be discussing the differences between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.
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