The One Word You Use That Makes People Think You're Selfish, Experts Say
The tone behind this one word is a major reason why you should avoid it.
When you’re expressing something you're feeling, how you say it and the words you choose matter. Even though certain terms may be common in your everyday life, that doesn't mean that they're not loaded with complex connotations. And, according to experts, there's one frequently used word that can make others think you're being selfish, causing a conversation to go wrong in the process: actually. To find out why this filler word is loaded, read on. And for more words that are better left unsaid, check out The One Word You're Saying That's Ruining Your Relationship, Experts Say.
Often times, the word "actually" can sound critical. According to Carrie Mead, LCPC, it "carries a tone of ego and hubris. It can make us sound like a know-it-all or someone who is unwilling to compromise."
"Sometimes actually is important, but sometimes it can be used in a condescending way," Mead adds. "For example, using the word 'actually' to emphasize a fact or correct someone who misspoke can be off-putting."
Additionally, when you respond to someone with the word—like when a friend confides in you about something that happened to them—they may think you're being negative and only seeing things from your perspective. "Depending on the context and the totality of the conversation, actually can seem ungrateful because it may not be acknowledging what a person did do, instead of only highlighting what they didn't do," says Darcie Brown, LMFT.
The word "actually" can sometimes lead to a miscommunication or an unintentional argument as well, according to transitional life strategist Randi Levin. "Using the word 'actually' often signals a debate between friends or peers," Levin says. "Expressing your point of view without using actually softens your message while still getting your point of view across."
But "actually" isn't the only everyday word that sounds worse than you think. For more common words to avoid using in conversation, read on, and for another term that may be a problem, check out The Word You Use All the Time Makes People Not Trust You, Experts Say.
When you use the word "really" to emphasize something important to you, there isn't much harm in that. However, in different contexts, like saying "if you really cared about/loved me," it can be a form of manipulation, says Natalie Finegood Goldberg, LMFT, of Creating Change LA. "Rather than stating your needs and giving your friend/partner the opportunity to meet those needs, you are essentially offering an ultimatum: do this or else." And for more words to ditch, check out The Worst Way You're Thanking Your Partner, Study Says.
Despite how helpful you may be trying to be, telling someone they should do something can instantly cause trouble. "You may have their best interests at heart, but when you express this with a list of what they should do, you are directing people how to live their lives," says Levin. And for the one word that no one wants to hear, check out The Most Annoying Word You Keep Using.
Tracy Nathanson, LCSW, founder of Pace of Mind Therapy, also notes that when you say, "I might do this" to someone, you're making them feel like they can't rely on you. "These words convey that you are not certain about what you are going to do and are hedging about it," Nathanson explains. And for more useful tips sent to your inbox directly, sign up for our newsletter.
"You make me"
Off the bat, it's safe to say that phrases like "you made me" or "you make me" are ones that place blame. In general, these terms are a negative way of speaking to someone and can also affect how you view yourself, according to Nathanson. "When you say to someone, 'You made me do this,' the other person may perceive it as mean and rude," Nathanson says. "This can also show that you are not owning up to your actions and taking responsibility for it." For more phrases that can unintentionally cause problems, check out The Worst Thing You're Saying to Your Partner Without Realizing It.