th images menu user export search eye clock list list2 arrow-left untitled twitter facebook googleplus instagram cross photos entrep-logo-svg

25 bad words that make other people feel inferior

Words can make or break so better choose yours wisely.
By John Rampton |


Did you know that in every language, there are more negative words than positive ones? It seems we need lots of words to describe our negative feelings, but we are content with a handful of positive ones.


For instance, researchers have found that most cultures have words for seven basic emotions: joy, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, shame and guilt.



That is one positive emotion, and six negative.


It is no wonder so many of us have a hard time keeping our negative comments in check. Over the past six months I have been working on the verbal language that I have been using that I do not even realize hurts others and in some cases makes them feel inferior. I even noticed that I have used a couple on my personal and business website. This is a "no-no" that I needed to fix.


This post will list 25 negative words you should that you stop hurting, belittling and intimidating those around you!



1. Can't.

When you tell someone they cannot do something, oftentimes they will end up believing you (whether you're right or not). This is particularly true if the person has come to trust and respect your opinions.



2. Dumb.

"Dumb" is a cop-out, and is one of those words you should never use. If you truly believe someone is of below-average intelligence, telling them they are dumb is going to do nothing to encourage or motivate them.




3. Irresponsible.

If your parents ever called you irresponsible, you know how it feels. Reserve this word for situations in which it is truly warranted, or risk alienating and intimidating those around you.



4. Fool.

In his book, The Hidden Messages in Water, Japanese scientist Masaru Emote detailed some experiments he conducted into the impact of words on both the world and on our health. For one of his most notable experiments, he placed two identical jars of rice side by side, labelling one "Thank you" and the other "You fool." He then brought the jars to a local school, and asked students to repeat those phrases to the jars twice each day. The result? The rice that had been praised daily remained white and fluffy, while the other disintegrated into a black, goopy mess. Sounds like the Twilight Zone, but that was the result of his experiment.




5. No.

The mother of all negative words, "no" can impact us down to our very core. In fact, research tells us that we react more slowly to the word "no" than to "yes," and that even our brains respond differently when we're told no. This is a great reminder to use this word sparingly.



6. Failure.

As in, "You're a failure." Is there ever really a reason to use this word in relation to another person? Until three months ago I used this on my payments landing page. I told people in a subheading "Failure isn't an option." Now I put "Success is your only option." Lo and behold, when people read that far on the page they stop and read it multiple times. It also converts better. Positive beats negative in every situation.


Related: Emotional Intelligence: 10 Things You Must Know



7. Bad.

Using this word to describe someone's actions—or even worse, their character— is unhelpful and grossly non-specific. Unless someone's actions are truly "bad," there are likely much more accurate and helpful words you can use to offer constructive criticism.





8. Ashamed.

If someone has ever told you they are ashamed of you, you know how disheartening this can be. If you are ever tempted to say it, ask yourself if there is a less hurtful word you can use to express your disappointment.



9. In the way.

As in, "You're getting in the way of what I'm trying to do." This is a great phrase to use if you want someone to feel totally useless and insignificant. If that is not what you are trying to convey, consider using a different word.




10. Incompetent.

This is a favorite word chosen by less-than-effective bosses who really want to intimidate their employees. It is one thing to tell an employee they need to try harder, or that they are not meeting your expectations. It is a whole other story to tell them they are incapable of doing their job.



11. Hate.

This word carries a depth of meaning that most of us would never actually hope to convey. It conjures up images of discrimination and racism, and should be saved for only the most extreme and justified situations. In the excellent documentary, "Erasing Hate," we hear the story of an ex-skinhead who is desperate to remove the racist tattoos from his face, hands and body. One of the most offensive and harmful tattoos, in his opinion? The letters H-A-T-E tattooed across his knuckles.


isolated girl



12. Weird.

Calling someone "weird" presupposes that you are the normal one and they are the odd one. In actual fact, we can all be considered "weird" in certain situations or circumstances.



13. Disappointment.

Is there anything worse than being told you are a total disappointment to someone? A better alternative might be to say, "I'm disappointed in what you did." This lets you express your dissatisfaction with an action or behavior, while still showing respect for the person. Another sentence may be, "Well let's try this a different way next time."



14. Don't.

Obviously, there are times when this word is useful. However, instead of constantly telling people what they should not be doing, focus on encouraging them to do what you want them to do.


Related: You Do not Say? Body Language Speaks Volumes More Than Words.



15. Shy.

Twenty years ago, this word was commonly used to describe someone who was quiet or who avoided the spotlight. However, calling someone shy—especially in the workplace—comes across as condescending (e.g., "I know you're really shy, but could you chair tomorrow's meeting?").





16. Wrong.

Like "do not," wrong has its place. Sometimes, there is no doubt that something is wrong. However, constantly telling someone they are doing something wrong, or that their opinions are wrong, will likely drive a wedge between the two of you. Using this word assumes that only you know best, that you have a monopoly on the truth. Reserve this word for when there no doubt it is accurate.



17. Lazy.

This word burns because it suggests an underlying lack of motivation and drive. Save this word for the rare times when there is no other explanation for someone's behavior (or lack thereof).



18. Inferior.

This is a word that leaves no question about how you really feel. If you tell someone they are inferior to you or someone else, you might as well tell them to just give up.



19. Mad.

I guess if you are able to verbalize your feelings of anger as "mad," you are on the right track. However, psychologists sometimes talk about how anger is actually a secondary emotion, used to protect us from feelings that can make us more vulnerable (e.g., sadness, rejection, fear, etc.). When you are tempted to tell someone you are "mad," ask yourself if that is really what you're feeling...or if there is a more specific word you could use to describe the emotion you're experiencing.





20. Boring.

Things are boring, not people. If someone seems boring to you, it is probably because you haven't taken the time to really get to know them.



21. Ugly.

If you are calling someone ugly, it is likely because you have your own issues with self-image. There is never a right time to use this word, at least not in relation to another person. If you are tempted to use it.... do not.



Related: Distracted and Overwhelmed Employees Are Costing You Big. Try These 3 Fixes.



22. Never.

Using absolutes (always, never, etc.) often indicates that you feel very strongly about something...however it may not be an accurate analysis of the situation. If you want to intimidate or hurt someone (e.g., "You fail at everything you try"), using absolutes is great. But if this is not your intention, it is probably best to take a different approach.



23. Grumpy.

When you are feeling sad or dejected, there is nothing worse than someone saying, "You're so grumpy!" Calling someone grumpy means you do not know - and do not care to know - what underlying emotion or problem the person is dealing with.



24. Ridiculous.

Telling someone their idea or opinion is ridiculous is a great way to make him or her feel about two inches tall. It is basically the same as saying, "Your idea is so bad, it's not even worth considering."




25. Useless.

Is there ever truly a right time to call another person useless? If you mean that a person is not working hard, tell them that. If you mean that a person is not being effective, say that. Calling someone useless is just a way to build yourself up while tearing someone else down.




Copyright © 2016 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.

This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been done by the editors.


Photos from Shutterstock, Thinkstock

Latest Articles