Infuriating Phrases that Get People on the Defensive

Defensive communication is sometimes caused by phrases that are infuriating to hear.

These are phrases that hide a hostile message. The person giving the message is not openly, but indirectly hostile.

When the person at the receiving end gets defensive, the person giving the message shows surprise at being misinterpreted.

Some people send these verbal attacks knowing full well what they are doing. Others could be sending these messages in a mindless way, not knowing that their words are making others defensive.

The list below shows a list of the most common culprit language and its hidden message.

"You are wrong"
"You don't know what you are talking about"
"you made a mistake"
Phrases like these can trigger people's defensiveness when they are said in public, given that most people dislike (1)looking bad or (2) being wrong.
"You oughta..."
"You should..."
"You have to..."
The implication is you have to do something, or that there isn't any other option. People don't like being told what to do, there could a hidden message that the person doesn't know better
"Here you go again" This implies that you are completely predictable about certain behaviors (most of the time bad behaviors)
"Everybody knows that ..." The implication is that you don't know what everybody else knows. This is a manipulative kind of phrase
"If you only..." This implies the person doesn't know what he or she is doing, or doesn't care, because if she/he knew what she/he was doing or cared about it then she/he would behave differently
"You never..."
"You always..."
If the generalization about a person is negative, people will resent it. If the generalization is positive, people may feel they are being manipulated into behaving a certain way.
"It's your fault" Even when it is someone's fault, he or she will not be receptive to others pointing this out to him or her
"Let me tell you what you need to do" "Why don't you?" People don't like to be given advice well unless they are openly seeking it

These phrases are infuriating to hear, people seldom react well to them, people generally get defensive. Once people go into defensive communication mode, it's very difficult to get anywhere.

If you are in the receiving end of the phrases, don't get caught up in the hostility or get defensive. Instead, let the person know that you are aware of the hidden message. By uncovering it, you can both have a more relevant discussion about the real issue at hand, and avoid getting sidetracked with the verbal attack.

If you are in the sending end of the phrases, be aware that people won't take well to them, and be prepared for a breakdown in the communication. If you use these phrases with people that matter to you, it's best to stop doing so. Instead, bring the issues you want to discuss out in the open in a direct and clear way.

Be assertive.