Lots of the things we say seem straightforward. However, it pays to be aware of the hidden meaning others might see in the words we say.

Language is powerful and there are some phrases that reveal things about us that we would rather others didn’t see. Our values and personality can slip out unawares if we are not careful of the words we use. Understanding the hidden meaning behind common phrases can help us come across as competent, knowledgeable, and fair.

If you find yourself using these phrases, you might like to look for alternative ways to express yourself.

1. No offense, but…

This actually means practically the opposite of what it says. If you say this, you know you are causing offense; otherwise, you wouldn’t need to say it! Adding the words ‘no offense, but’ doesn’t let us get away with being mean or unfair.

The hidden meaning behind this phrase is “I know these words will hurt you, but I’m saying them anyway”.

2. I’m entitled to my opinion

Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, that doesn’t mean it is valid. Opinions are not facts. If someone finds themselves using this phrase, it might be better to get the facts right in the first place. Then they won’t need to resort to this pointless phrase.

The hidden meaning of this phrase is “I don’t care what the facts are. I think my opinion is right and I am not prepared to listen to alternative views”.

 3. It’s not my fault

Blaming others can often make us look weak and foolish. If you have done nothing wrong, then the situation will speak for itself. If you had any part to play in a situation, then accepting responsibility shows your good character. The hidden meaning behind this phrase is “I am not a responsible person”.

4. It’s not fair

Anyone who says this phrase sounds like a child. As adults, we understand that not everything in life is fair. However, it is up to us to change the situation or make the best of it.

The hidden meaning behind this phrase is “I expect everyone around me to make my life perfect and I will have a toddler tantrum if they don’t”.

5. This may be a silly idea

If someone is lacking confidence, they might use this phrase before giving their ideas or opinions. Unfortunately, if you say this, you are priming others to see it as a silly idea, too. If you have no confidence in your ideas, no one else will either.

6. I had no choice.

We always have a choice. That’s not to say that making choices is easy. It is not always possible to please everyone and we may sometimes make choices that others aren’t happy about. However, denying that we had a choice is just a way to avoid taking responsibility for our actions. A better phrase would be “I had to make a difficult choice”.

7. He/she is an idiot

Talking behind others’ backs is never a pleasant way to act. If someone behaves in a way that you think is incompetent or damaging, then you need to have a conversation with them in private. Usually, if someone really is incompetent, those around you will soon work it out for themselves. If they aren’t and you say they are, you only make yourself look bad.

 8. I hate…

Hate helps no one. We overuse use the words love and hate about anything from vegetables to war. There are better ways to express ourselves. If you see an injustice, do something about it. Expressing hatred will not solve the problem and will probably make it worse.

Closing thoughts

The words we use say more about us than we sometimes realize. The meanings behind what we say can make us look foolish, childish, and irresponsible if we are not careful.

They also have more power than we think. We sometimes believe that words are not as important as actions. However, saying words is an action. What we say can lift others up or put them down. So use words carefully to uplift, inspire and help others whenever you can.


  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com
  2. http://goop.com

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. jeanine galvan

    BRAVO! I’m quoting you somewhere in my new book “You as Plural” the more people write about the POWER of WORDS perhaps WE can change the negativity in OUR English social linguistics or “street talk” with social media how we use OUR words have become epidemic. NEVER have OUR English words been positive toward women yet WE don’t question why.For all of you who still use the term “YOU GUYS” or “GUYS” to identify everything from Chia seeds to jars of sauce this article is for you. Rise above baseness speak to OUR human dignity OUR intelligence! peace

  2. Dave Williams

    Here’s one that my eyes were opened to only just recently: “cotton-picking hands.” In general, what color would those hands be?….oh….

    1. Mary

      I’M 76 years old and I’ve spent time in the the fields picking cotton in my younger years. I’m white. I take no offense at the phrase “cotton picking hands”. and I’m not “poor white trash” either! Get a life!

  3. Nunya

    To be bloody honest of you can’t speak your mind there are flaws in your language. If everything you have to say has to have subliminal messages in it, you speak a language that is flawed in all aspects.

  4. sandlotus

    I do take issue with number 3. It is not always true that the situation will speak for itself. The political scene right now is a best example. Taking blame for what someone else is doing that is harmful and dangerous, is not in yours or anyone else’s best interest. Humility is admirable, but not accepting blame for someone else, who continues to cause harm. They simply escalate the harm they cause, because no one is doing anything to protect and defend against that harm.

  5. Mark Webber

    I would like to add something that is often said but seldom justified, since it is a variation on ‘I didn’t have a choice’: it’s ‘I was only obeying orders’.

  6. Ute

    Whу people ѕtill use to rеad news papers wһen in tһis technological gllobe the ᴡhole thinmg is aᴠailable on web?

  7. site

    So relatable, if a bit appeasing. Explain?

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