12 Things You Don’t Ever Actually Need To Say To Anyone
Etiquette isn’t quite the “thing” it used to be. In a lot of ways that’s good–I actually collect old etiquette books, and am pretty sure I’d lose my mind if I had to follow all of those rules. Introductions alone would give me a panic attack.
However, I am a great fan of manners. Manners are my favorite. Not just rules like “don’t chew with your mouth open”–but the reasoning behind them being to make people feel more comfortable. Like, the reason we do not chew with our mouths open is not just because it’s a rule, but because we do not want to make other people sick.
I get that people are pretty big on the whole “I can say what I want!” thing and, you know, the “expressing themselves” thing and whatnot–but if you don’t want to be a jerk, or you don’t want to make people feel crappy, here are some things you probably don’t need to say to anyone.
1. “When are you due?”/”Oh! Are you expecting?”
Dave Barry once famously said that the only time you should ever ask a woman if she’s pregnant is when you can see the head coming out–and even then, proceed with caution.
That was years ago, and it’s hardly something that hasn’t been discussed since. You’d think by now people would have figured out that it’s rude to say that. Alas, no. Now, there are lots of reasons why you shouldn’t ever say this, number one being that the person you’re talking to may simply be overweight, or could have a tumor, or several varieties of cancer, or they could have just had a miscarriage. You don’t know!
But most importantly, odds are the person you are asking is a total stranger to you. You have no dog in that hunt. It should not matter to you one way or another whether or not someone you don’t know is pregnant. To boot, the odds of being wrong and hurting that person are pretty high. So unless you’re on the line with 911, and this is something they need to know for some reason, just shut up about it.
2. I FOUND A TYPO!
Congratulations! I’m sure you feel really good about yourself. Finding a typo usually means that you are a fabulous genius on par with Albert Einstein. In fact, you are probably smarter than Einstein, because he was not terribly good at spelling.
However, forcing such brilliance in the faces of other people is unlikely to make you terribly popular. The best way to handle notifying people about typos, if you must, is not to loudly and publicly proclaim this on their Facebook page by going “UH, I think you mean ‘YOUR,'” but to privately message them on the matter. I would avoid it entirely if the person is discussing something sensitive, such as the death of a family member.
If you find a typo on a website, it is probably unnecessary to announce that they should hire you as an editor. These things happen–The New York Times has never had an issue without one. Again, if you must, simply email an editor with a correction (you can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Everyone makes mistakes–it’s not a big deal. But there’s a way to handle telling them this politely and kindly, and a way that makes you look like a jackass.
There is, however, one exception–when someone is being an asshole. If someone is being an asshole and goes on an inexplicably long rant about, say, why gay people ought to get the death penalty or something, or if they are harassing you, then by all means, go right ahead. It’s probably better than giving them a real response and wasting your energy on that.
3. “You look tired”
Unless someone literally looks like they are about to pass out and you’re thinking they maybe need to go home rather than spending all night driving a Mac Truck and possibly killing someone, telling them they look “tired” is pretty insulting. To boot, what it usually means is that they are not currently wearing eyeliner.
It is something almost no one ever, ever feels like hearing, even if they are tired. So just don’t.
4. “What are you?”
Hey, you, person having a casual conversation with another person whose ethnicity you’re not sure of! This may come as a complete surprise to you, but you do not actually need to know that person’s ethnic makeup in order to discuss whatever you’ve just purchased in the checkout line or how crowded the bus is that day. It is, truly, of no actual consequence to you.
If someone wants you to know their ethnic makeup, I’m sure they will let you know. On the occasion that this does happen, you probably do not need to expound on your opinions about said ethnic makeup, even if you feel you are saying something positive–ie: “Oh! Biracial people are always so beautiful,” etc.
5. “You’ve lost/gained weight!”
Now, the gaining one should be freaking obvious. If you don’t think that’s weird and rude to say, I don’t know what to do with you.
But, you should also know that unless you know someone well, and know for a fact that they have been trying to lose (or gain) weight, that you should really keep your mouth shut.
Shockingly, people don’t always lose weight because they are on some fabulous new diet or fitness regimen. Sometimes they lose it because they’ve been sick. You don’t really want to be stuck with your foot in your mouth when you say “Oooh! You lost so much weight!” and the person responds “Well, I had cancer.”
Unless you are someone’s doctor or nutritionist or whatever else, there is almost no reason to comment on anyone else’s weight situation. I can’t think of any, personally. It is really none of your business.
6. “I liked your hair better longer,” “That dress is a really bad color for you,” “Don’t you think you’ll regret those tattoos?”
As a rule, don’t comment on things people can’t change fairly immediately. If someone went for a pixie cut and you don’t like it, keep your mouth shut. If you’re already out with a friend and you don’t like what they’re wearing, keep your mouth shut (or at least just tell them later so they don’t spend the whole evening feeling self-conscious). If you don’t like someone’s tattoo, shut your mouth. Because really, even if they agree with you, even if you’re right, what on earth are they going to do about it now?
Now, if it’s something like “You have spinach in your teeth,” or “You have toilet paper stuck to your shoe”–you should always, always, always say something–although ideally quietly and not in front of anyone.
7. “I look so fat!”
Specifically, this is not something you should ever say in front of people who are bigger than you. It’s weird and rude, and the person is left thinking “Shit, she must think I look terrible!” I hope by now, everyone has figured that out.
However, it’s not the best thing to say in general, either. Because then everyone around you is compelled to tell you how definitely not fat you are, thereby also suggesting that “fat” is a universally terrible thing to be. Leave it alone. Get it out of your system in the mirror before you go out, if you must, but do not inflict it on others.
8. “When are you having kids/getting married?”
I feel like this is a thing that if people want you to know, they will probably tell you. There’s enough pressure in the world to do these things, and there is no one on earth who is not annoyed by it. No one owes it to you to tell you that they either can’t have kids or can’t afford them, or that there are issues in their relationship.
9. “What do you do for a living?”
This only works as a followup question. Unless someone specifically brings up their work, there’s no reason for you to. For one, sometimes people are out of work, and maybe don’t feel like discussing that with you. I know when I was out of work that I would absolutely dread people asking me that. For another, it can sometimes come across as if you are sussing out whether or not someone is fancy enough to bother with.
If you don’t know for sure that someone has a job, maybe just ask them what they’re into.
Are you holding a camera? If not, don’t tell anyone to smile. Just don’t. For some reason, many men believe this to be the all-time greatest pick-up line, but trust, it is not. No one likes being told to smile. Maybe they’ve had a bad day, maybe their cat just died, maybe they just don’t feel like it, but if someone feels like smiling, trust that they will and that they do not need your assistance to do so.
11. “I’m just concerned about your health.”
As hard as this may be to understand, pretty much no one wants to discuss their health issues with anyone else. Trust. I’m a smoker. I know smoking is bad for my health, and nothing you can tell me is going to be a revelation, or make me feel more able to quit right now. People who are overweight don’t need your concern either. It’s an annoying conversation and no one wants to have it.
12. “Ew, I can’t believe you’re eating that”
Surprise! Everyone has different taste in food. There’s probably no reason to tell people that what they are eating, or how much of it they are eating, disgusts you. It’s none of your business. No one should have to feel self-conscious over something like that.