Genius Phrases To Help Someone See Their Own Bad Behavior

Genius Phrases To Help Someone See Their Own Bad Behavior

If you’re tired of tiptoeing around someone’s bad behavior — as well as their complete unwillingness to acknowledge and change it — something’s gotta give. While screaming at them or telling them what you really think about the way they act might be tempting, it’s not exactly going to get the results you want. Here are some things you can say instead that might actually make a difference (or at least get them thinking).

1. “I’m curious, what was your intention behind that?”

This simple question forces the person to pause and reflect on their words or actions. It puts the focus on their underlying motivation rather than immediately labeling their behavior as negative. By prompting them to explain themselves, you might open up the opportunity for them to self-correct or realize the effect their behavior has on other people. While awareness alone can’t change people’s behavior, Psychology Today explains, it’s certainly a start.

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2. “Help me understand this better…”


This phrase comes from a place of genuine curiosity. It shows that you’re willing to give the person the benefit of the doubt and invites them to clarify or re-explain themselves. They might actually have a valid point that was poorly communicated, or by being forced to elaborate, they might realize how their behavior is coming across.

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3. “How do you think that made [person’s name] feel?”


Shifting the focus onto the impact of the person’s behavior can be an eye-opener. Putting them in the shoes of the person affected by their actions encourages empathy. It might help them realize the consequences of their words or choices and spark a sense of remorse.

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4. “I’ve noticed a pattern of [behavior]… “

Identifying a pattern of behavior takes it away from a one-time incident and highlights that it’s an ongoing issue. By stating it as a neutral observation rather than an accusation, you avoid defensiveness and open the door for a constructive conversation about making a change.

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5. “I feel [emotion] when you [behavior].”

Using “I” statements keeps the focus on how their behavior impacts you and minimizes the feeling of being attacked. Clearly communicating your feelings helps the other person connect with the consequences of their actions. It emphasizes that their behavior has a real impact on others.

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6. “Is there a different way this could have been handled?”

This phrasing suggests that there are alternatives to the person’s chosen course of action. It gently guides them towards thinking about other, more effective or considerate ways to handle a situation. Instead of criticizing their past choices, it focuses on finding better solutions for the future.

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7. “What are some things you can do to avoid this in the future?”

Young couple arguing at home needs couples therapyistock

Putting the responsibility of finding solutions back onto the person empowers them to make positive changes. This proactive approach steers away from dwelling on the negative and instead focuses on how they can learn and grow from the situation.

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8. “Would you be open to some feedback?”

Mature married couple fighting, blaming and accusing each other, having relationship problem at home. Middle-aged man and his wife on verge of divorce or separation, arguing indoorsistock

Always ask permission before launching into criticism, however constructive. This shows respect for the person’s autonomy and makes them more receptive to what you have to say. By framing it as “feedback” rather than negativity, you soften the blow and create a more collaborative atmosphere.

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9. “That didn’t come across the way you might have intended.”

This phrase offers a non-threatening way to point out that the person’s words or actions were misconstrued. It hints that there might be a disconnect between their intention and how their behavior was perceived, without directly labeling what they did as hurtful or wrong.

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10. “I’m having a hard time understanding your perspective, can you elaborate?”

Woman apologizes to her friend after fight

This highlights the lack of clear communication rather than attacking the person’s character. It positions you as someone who genuinely wants to understand their point of view, even while signaling that their current explanation isn’t effective. They might then attempt to reframe their perspective in a way that’s more considerate, ultimately recognizing the issue themselves.

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11. “I’m not sure if that’s appropriate for [setting or situation].”

Sometimes, a direct but gentle statement addressing the inappropriateness of a behavior is necessary. Rather than getting personal, this approach calls out the behavior itself as mismatched with the specific context. It sets clear expectations without escalating the situation, Sarah Richardson writes on LinkedIn.

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12. “Let’s take a step back for a moment.”

Couple have a conversation, while he's been ignored by his girlfriend

If a situation is escalating emotionally, suggest taking a break. This allows everyone involved to cool down and regain their composure. Use this pause to help the person reflect privately on their actions and approach a solution from a calmer place.

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13. “Is there anything going on that I should be aware of?”

bored couple sitting on couch togetheristock

Sometimes, bad behavior stems from underlying issues the person is struggling with. This compassionate question shows you’re open to the possibility that there’s more to the situation than meets the eye. It creates space for them to confide in you if they’re comfortable, potentially leading to a deeper understanding.

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14. “Remember, how we treat others is a reflection of ourselves.”

Couple arguing planning a separation after infidelity crisis

This phrase delivers a powerful dose of perspective. It appeals to the person’s desire for a positive self-image, suggesting their bad behavior actually damages their own reputation. It subtly encourages them to hold themselves to a higher standard.

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15. “I appreciate you being open to hearing this.”

Even if the conversation is difficult, acknowledge the person’s willingness to listen. Positive reinforcement encourages open communication and makes them more receptive to future feedback. It sets the stage for them to become more receptive to recognizing their own behavior patterns.

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16. “Let me know if you want to talk about this more.”

Angry Caucasian man and senior dad sit separate on couch ignore avoid talking after quarrel fight. Mad stubborn mature father and adult grown son have family misunderstanding. Generation gap concept.

Leave the door open for further discussion. The person might need some time to process the feedback and self-reflect. Reassuring them that you’re available for further conversation signals ongoing support and willingness to address issues constructively.

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Originally from Australia, Emma Mills graduated from the University of Queensland with a dual degree in Philosophy and Applied Linguistics before moving to Los Angeles to become a professional matchmaker (a bit of a shift, obviously). Since 2015, she has helped more than 150 people find lasting love and remains passionate about bringing amazing singletons together.

Emma is also the author of the upcoming Hachette publication, "Off the Beaten Track: Finding Lasting Love in the Least Likely of Places," due out in January 2025.