16 Toxic Phrases People Use to Avoid Taking Responsibility

16 Toxic Phrases People Use to Avoid Taking Responsibility

Some people just can’t hold their hands up and admit when they’ve screwed up. Their lack of accountability is frustrating to everyone around them, and leaves people feeling annoyed, betrayed, and probably like they want to get as far away from that person as possible. Here are some of the toxic phrases people use when they just can’t ‘fess up when they mess up.

1. “It’s not my fault.”

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This classic deflection is often accompanied by a list of excuses and justifications. It’s a way of shifting blame onto someone or something else, according to Psychology Today, refusing to acknowledge their own role in the situation. It can leave you feeling frustrated and unheard, as if your concerns are being dismissed.

2. “You’re overreacting.”

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This phrase is designed to invalidate your feelings and make you question your own perception of reality. It’s a way of minimizing your concerns and making you feel like you’re being too sensitive or dramatic. It can leave you doubting yourself and feeling like your emotions are not valid.

3. “I was just joking.”

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This is often used to excuse hurtful or offensive comments. It’s a way of dismissing the impact of their words and avoiding accountability for the harm they caused. It can leave you feeling confused and unsure of whether to take their words seriously or not.

4. “You’re too sensitive.”

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Similar to “you’re overreacting,” this phrase is used to shift blame onto you for being too sensitive or easily offended. It’s a way of avoiding taking responsibility for their own insensitivity or lack of consideration. It can leave you feeling like you’re the problem, rather than the person who made the hurtful comment.

5. “I never said that.”

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This is a classic gaslighting tactic, designed to make you doubt your own memory and perception of events. It’s a way of denying responsibility for their words or actions, even if you have clear evidence to the contrary. It can leave you feeling confused, frustrated, and questioning your own sanity.

6. “You made me do it.”

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This phrase is a way of shifting blame onto you for their own behavior. It’s a refusal to take ownership of their actions and a way of making you feel responsible for their choices. It can leave you feeling guilty, confused, and resentful.

7. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

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This bad boy is often used to backpedal after saying something hurtful or offensive. It’s a way of trying to reframe their words or actions in a more positive light, even if their original intention was clearly harmful. It can leave you feeling invalidated and like your feelings are being dismissed.

8. “Why are you making such a big deal out of this?”

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This seriously downplays the significance of your concerns or feelings. It’s a way of dismissing your perspective and making you feel like you’re overreacting. It can leave you feeling unheard and like your concerns are not valid.

9. “It’s not a big deal.”

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This one minimizes the impact of their actions or the situation at hand. It’s a way of downplaying the significance of the issue and avoiding taking it seriously. This can be particularly frustrating when the issue is important to you, making you feel unheard and dismissed.

10. “I’m too busy to deal with this right now.”

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This phrase is often used to postpone or avoid dealing with a problem altogether. It’s a way of prioritizing other things over the issue at hand, signaling that it’s not important enough for their immediate attention. This can leave you feeling frustrated and unimportant.

11. “You’re always so negative.”

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This phrase is a deflection tactic aimed at shifting the focus away from their own behavior. By labeling you as negative, they avoid taking responsibility for their own actions or the impact they have on you. It can also make you doubt yourself and your valid concerns.

12. “I forgot.”

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This is a common excuse used to avoid accountability for failing to follow through on commitments or responsibilities. While genuine forgetfulness can happen, using it repeatedly as an excuse can indicate a lack of respect for other people’s time and expectations.

13. “It was an accident.”

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While accidents do happen, using this phrase too often can be a way to avoid acknowledging a pattern of careless or irresponsible behavior. It can also be used to deflect blame and avoid taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

14. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

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This non-apology is often used to avoid taking ownership of their actions and the hurt they caused. It focuses on your feelings rather than acknowledging their own wrongdoing. It can leave you feeling unheard and invalidated. As Psych Central points out, anyone who says this is insincere in their “sorry.”

15. “You’re the one who always…”

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This phrase is another deflection tactic that shifts blame onto you by bringing up past mistakes or shortcomings. It’s a way of avoiding accountability for their own behavior and putting you on the defensive. It can be hurtful and derail the conversation from the current issue.

16. “Everyone makes mistakes.”

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While this statement is true, it’s often used as a blanket excuse to avoid taking responsibility for specific mistakes. It minimizes the impact of their actions and implies that their behavior is acceptable because everyone is fallible. It can be frustrating when you’re seeking a genuine apology and a commitment to change.

Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.