Considering how much I talk and all of the ridiculous things I say accidentally, I'm probably the last person to be giving anyone advice about communication. However, the fact remains that there are some phrases that we all need to eliminate from daily conversation.
Things You Need to Stop Saying to People:
1. "When you [x]." Admittedly, I may be oversensitive to this one, but if I could have a dollar for every time someone has said to me "When you get married..." The assumption being, of course, that the question of my marriage is just a matter of time. Granted, the older I'm getting the more likely people are to subjugate the clause with the word if rather than when, which is actually fine by me.
Because my point is that you don't know what people's goals are for their lives, and by framing your comments from the position of when rather than if, you reveal your belief that this is the one action needed to bring your friend back into step with expectation.
When you go to college...
When you get married...
When you have children...
When you buy a home...
Normally when we say things like this, we're making jokey, throwaway comments intended to help our friends appreciate our struggles: "Just you wait until your turn, buddy." I totally understand. My purpose here isn't to make you paranoid but to help you see the flip side and understand that for some people, responding to comments like these can feel awkward.
2. "You're so lucky that [x]." Another throwaway comment that can really backfire and cause a lot of unintended pain. When your toddler is attempting to crawl up your torso and chew your face off while simultaneously emitting troublesome fumes from his back end, you might be tempted to turn to your childless friend and say, "Aren't you glad you don't have to deal with stuff like this?"
But unless you're close enough with that friend know how he feels, you should probably stop saying stuff like that. I can't tell you how many times I've known friends struggling with infertility to be unintentionally hurt by other friends telling them they're so "lucky" that they don't have children yet. Friends with health issues who are told that they're "lucky" to be so thin. Single friends who want to cry every time people tell them they're "lucky" that they don't have a family complicating their schedules.
I know your intention when you say things like this is almost always to encourage.
Just be careful. That's all I'm saying.
3. "Don't be afraid to be yourself." Frankly, you should be very afraid to be yourself. While I appreciate the intended sentiment and believe that we should develop as individuals (because the diversity of humanity is a representation of the image of God), I also know that people are awful--they're fallen and broken and wounded and selfish.
So am I.
That's why my goal is not to become more like myself. My goal is to become like Christ. Only then will I be completely myself, because I have been created to find my identity in Him.