For that reason, many of us talk our way around rejection. We don't want to seem curt or cutthroat, so we pepper in different words and phrases to soften the blow and make us seem a little less heartless.
It's natural. However, it also dilutes your message and sometimes even makes you seem condescending.
So, what sorts of things should you skip when you need to turn someone down -- whether it's for a job, project, or any other opportunity? Here are four phrases to avoid.
1. "I wish..."
This sort of phrase has a way of creeping in when you attempt to display sympathy -- you obviously don't have any ill will toward that person, and you don't want to be responsible for discouragement.
However, it's important to remember that when you're the one doing the rejecting, you're also the one in charge. This is a decision you were actively a part of.
By using a phrase like "I wish," you downplay the role you played in that bad news -- as if it wasn't up to you. While it seems like an effort to express compassion, it's actually more self-serving than anything.
In a similar vein, this is another word that downplays the level of control you have over that situation. Chances are, if you're rejecting someone, you're doing so for a sensible reason.
If that's true, it's not unfortunate. In fact, it's the exact opposite -- you're moving forward in the way that you perceive to make the most sense.
Yes, it's not the news that other person would prefer to hear. But, expressing untrue regret on your end can ultimately just confuse your message.
3. "It would be different if..."
Offering feedback when you need to turn someone down can be helpful for arming that person with the information he or she needs to improve.
However, don't preface your criticism with a phrase like this one. It sets the tone that -- had he or she just done one thing differently or the circumstances had been altered just a little bit -- the news would be positive.
It's tempting to think of that as an encouraging sentiment. But in the end, it usually only leads to that person being filled with regret and beating him or herself up over that one perceived slip-up.
4. "It's not a big deal..."
Some people are better at reacting to rejection than others. However, let's face it -- nobody enjoys it. It's a humbling experience for all of us.
If you feel like you need to comfort someone who isn't reacting well to the news, you might catch yourself leaning on a phrase like this one. You want to illustrate that it isn't the end of the world and that this person will move past this.
But in reality, this phrase has a way of coming off as dismissive and condescending. So, you're better off skipping it.
Nobody wants to be rejected. And sitting on the other side of the table and being the bearer of bad news isn't any easier. Avoid these four phrases when turning someone down, and you're sure to make your message clearer -- while still being polite.