Words are very powerful. They have the power to make or break people. A few words of motivation can uplift a person and encourage them to keep going in spite of the circumstances.

Negative words, on the other hand, can belittle someone, make them feel inferior and confine them to a life of mediocrity.

While many of us know how powerful words can be, it is still surprising that majority of us are more inclined to use negative words than positive words.

Have you ever noticed that, when you tell people about something you want to embark on – such as starting a business, working on a new project, applying for a great job, and so on – majority of them will be quick to tell you why it won’t work or why you will not succeed, and only a few will encourage you.

This inclination to use negative words is something deeply entrenched in society.

In a bid to determine the use of negative language, associate professor of linguistics Robert Schrauf and psychology graduate student Julia Sanchez conducted a survey in Mexico City and Chicago, involving two sets of participants, one in their 20s and the other in their 60s.

The participants were asked to come up with as many emotion-describing words in two minutes.

The survey found that half of the words the participants came up with were negative. Only 30% were positive, while 20% were neutral.

Another group of researchers found that in every language, there are more words to describe negative experiences and emotions than positive ones.

Therefore, it is no surprise that most of us are quick to throw out negative comments to our friends and colleagues. Most of the times, we do not even do this with the aim of hurting others. We do it with good intentions, hoping to help them change their behavior.

Regardless of our intentions, these words end up making the other person feeling belittled and inferior.

To make matters worse, the damage done by these words cannot be easily undone, even if you follow them with positive words. People tend to focus more on negative words than positive words.

According to a research by Edward Royzman from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard graduate professor of psychology Paul Rozin, the negative perspective has a greater influence on people than the positive perspective.

This view is supported by another study by researchers from the University of Chicago Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, who also found out that negative news influence our attitudes more heavily compared to good news.

To avoid unintentionally belittling others, you should make a conscious effort to expunge negative words from your vocabulary.

In this post, we have come up with a list of 25 bad words you should avoid in order to make those around you feel inferior.


Has someone ever referred to you as dumb? How did it make you feel?

Most likely, it made you feel like a lesser person and probably affected your self-confidence and self-esteem temporarily.

Calling someone dumb means that someone is of below-average intelligence, that their thinking or decision-making is outside the expectations of normal behavior. But the truth is that no one is dumb.

Someone might not be very good in one area, but there are other areas where they are better than you. Does that make you dumb? Not really. So, why refer to someone as dumb because they did not behave as you expected?

Very often, this word is said with the aim of encouraging someone to be more sensible or more logical in their thinking, but instead of motivating them, it only discourages them and makes them feel like they cannot do anything well.

2. CAN’T

How many times have you heard someone talking about something they want to do, only for another person to chip in and tell them that they can’t do it? Telling someone that they can’t do something is the greatest form of discouragement.

The person might end up believing you, especially if you are someone whose opinions they trust, which will in turn prevent them from giving their all and achieving what they wanted. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

What makes this word even worse is that you are in no position to judge a person’s ability to do something.

By telling them that they can’t, you are sharing your opinion, rather than something factual.

In other words, you are simply discouraging them, since you don’t know for sure that they cannot do it. Because of this, you should avoid using the word can’t.


Referring to someone as weird is a way of saying that you are normal while they are not. It is another way of saying that there is something wrong with them.

If you are someone whose opinion this person values and respects, referring to them as weird will make them feel inferior and inadequate, like they are not worthy hanging out with you or doing something.

This will make the person doubt themselves and might lead to the person avoiding interaction with other people, since they believe that other people also think there is something wrong with them.

To avoid making others feel this way, you should try as much as possible to avoid using the word weird.

4. HATE 

This is a very strong word. When you tell someone that you hate them or something about them, it means that you have a very intense dislike for them.

In other words, if you had an option, you would totally avoid them. You might not mean that, but that is the message that the person will infer from your words.

This means that whenever you have to interact with this person, there will be some tension in the interaction.

The interaction will feel forced since this person knows you are there only because you have no other option.

Ultimately, the relationship between the two of you might break down irreparably. Therefore, try as much as possible to remove this word from your vocabulary.


When you refer to someone as a fool, it means that you think that they are incapable of acting wisely. When someone is referred to as a fool severally, they start believing it and lose the motivation to try and perform better. Why try when they believe they cannot?

For instance, if a student fails in math one time and the teacher or parent calls them a fool for it, they believe that they are not good at math and stop trying to improve. In their mind, nothing they can do will help them improve, so they just stop trying.

Ultimately, continuously referring to someone as a fool can even lead to lack of self-belief and even depression.


One of the most discouraging things you can say to someone is to call them a failure. This word has a very negative connotation.

When you refer to someone as a failure, you are essentially saying that they are not capable of winning.

As the person hears this more and more, they might actually start believing that they cannot do anything successfully.

Instead of giving it their all, they do things half-heartedly because they believe there is something wrong with them that keeps them from achieving success.

Instead of referring to someone as a failure even when something they were working on didn’t work, you should encourage them to examine why it did not work, see what they can learn from the experience and then try again.

7. BAD

People typically use this word to describe another person’s words, thoughts or actions, when the person considers these actions, thoughts and words to be negative.

The problem with describing someone’s thoughts, actions or words as bad is that the term is demeaning. It leaves the other person feeling unhappy and has a negative effect on their self-confidence.

In addition, telling someone that something about them is bad does not really help them to improve it.

Instead of using this word, you should explain why you think something they did or said is inappropriate and advice on how they can improve.


There is nothing I hate more than being told I am lazy, because I know am not.

Telling someone they are lazy implies that the person is unwilling to put in effort towards achieving something, or that they have no motivation to work towards a certain goal. In most cases, this is rarely the case.

For instance, you might assign some work to your colleague, only to come later and find that they are yet to get it done.

In your mind, you conclude that they are lazy, without taking the time to find out why they did not get the work done in the first place. Perhaps they did not do it because their boss assigned them some other work.

Therefore, it will definitely hurt when you make your own conclusions and call them lazy. Unless you are really sure that a person has an aversion for work, you should avoid calling them lazy.


This is a very common word at the workplace, mostly used by condescending bosses who want to intimidate their staff. The problem is, intimidation is not the best way of motivating people to work hard or give their all. When at work, it is inevitable that people will fail to meet your expectations at some point.

By calling them incompetent, you are implying that they do not have the skills to get their work done, yet you have relied on them on several occasions before. By calling them incompetent, you are not only lying, but also belittling them and making them feel demoralized.

If someone at work did not do something as they were supposed to, you should tell them that they aren’t meeting your expectations and that they need to try harder, rather than implying they are incapable of doing their job.


By referring to someone as irresponsible, it means that they act without thinking about the possible outcomes of their actions.

When you tell someone that they are irresponsible, you probably do so because you want them to put more thought into their actions.

However, calling someone irresponsible does not help them in any way. It only works to shame and intimidate them, and if they end up believing you, they will avoid being proactive and taking up leadership roles in a bid not to display their perceived irresponsibility.

11. NO

The word no has a huge impact on our brains.

Research shows that our brains respond differently when we hear the word no. The word evokes a negative signal in our brain’s right lateral orbitofrontal cortex, and often leads to a person feeling upset about whatever situation they are in.

The problem with this word is that it is impossible to oblige people’s requests in every situation.

However, instead of hitting them with a blunt no, you should go the extra mile and explain why you cannot oblige their request at that particular moment.


Being told that someone is ashamed of you (especially someone you regard highly in your life) can be very disheartening.

When you tell someone that you are ashamed of them, what you are saying is that you expected them to meet a certain threshold but you have discovered they are incapable of doing it.

This makes the person feel that they are inadequate, which in turn negatively affects their self-esteem.

Therefore, even if you feel that someone did not live up to some level you expected of them, you should try and convey your disappointment using less hurtful words.


Saying you are disappointed in someone is another strong word that can make a person feel greatly inferior.

Similar to ashamed, it means that someone has failed to live up to what you expected of them. The more the person holds your opinion in high regard, the more inferior they will feel when you say you are disappointed in them.

If someone does something that leaves you disappointed, don’t say you are disappointed in them. Instead, explain what they did that you did not approve of, while showing that you still have respect for them as a person.


If you are doing something and you feel like someone is hindering you from getting it done in the best way possible, you might be tempted to tell them that they are getting in the way of what you are trying to do.

While this phrase feels innocent enough, it implies that the person is adding no value to you at the moment, or that they are useless and insignificant.

Instead of telling someone that they are getting in the way of something, explain to them that you have something you need to get done and that you need some time undisturbed to focus on it.

15. DON’T 

Don’t do this! Don’t do that! People spend a lot of time telling others what they should not do.

Unfortunately, telling people what they should not do is essentially placing limits on them, especially when you are in a position of power compared to them.

Eventually, these people might stop trying new things because they know you will stop them.

Therefore, instead of regularly telling people not to do this or that, you should spend more time encouraging them to do something more productive.

For instance, if someone in your team wants to make some tweaks in your marketing campaign and you think they are not the best person for it, most people will tell them not to do it.

However, the fact that they are proactive and want to do something is a good thing. Instead of telling them not to do it, you should assign them something else they can do more effectively.

16. SHY

When you refer to someone as shy, especially at the workplace, it means that you think they are too timid for their own good.

Sure, the person might be a little nervous in front of people, but if you regularly refer to them as shy, this will only reinforce the belief that they are not very comfortable in front of people, leading to a downward spiral that can even result in conditions like anxiety.


Sometimes, you cannot avoid using this word.

Someone might actually be doing something wrong and there might be no other way of telling them that what they are doing is wrong.

However, many people use the word in a very condescending manner, especially at the workplace.

For instance, a junior staffer might give their opinion about something, only for their boss to shout them down with “you are wrong.”

Doing this belittles the other person’s contributions and makes them feel like they are a less-intelligent person.

Instead of shooting someone down with “you are wrong,” listen to what the other person has to say, and if you don’t concur with them, explain your reasoning to them without making them feel like a lesser being.


We are talking about words that make people inferior, therefore it was inevitable that the word inferior itself would show up.

When you tell someone that they are inferior, you are making it clear that you or someone else is better than them.

You are belittling them without the slightest attempt at hiding it. Unless you want to deliberately hurt a person, there is no need for you to refer to someone as inferior.


When you tell someone that he or she is boring, you are essentially saying that there is nothing interesting about them.

This can easily make a person feel inferior and insignificant. The truth is that everyone has totally interesting about them.

If you think there is nothing interesting about a person, that’s probably because you don’t know them well enough.

20. MAD

Sometimes, people will do things that anger you, and you might be tempted to tell them how mad they have made you.

However, very often, feelings of anger are a result of unmet expectations. When you find yourself angry at someone, ask yourself what you expected them to do that they have not done.

For instance, if you were supposed to go out on a date with your spouse but they arrive an hour later, you will most likely be angry.

In this case, your anger stems from the fact that your spouse did not keep time, which you expected them to. Instead of yelling at them and telling them how mad they have made you, tell that you are not happy that they kept you waiting for one hour.

21. UGLY

This is just a word you should not use. How we look is something natural, and there is not much someone can do about how they look.

When you tell someone that they are ugly, you are making them feel inferior for something that is not within their control.

Just don’t refer to someone as ugly.


This term is an absolute and should be avoided because it is very often used inaccurately.

For instance, if someone has not done something as they were supposed to, you might be tempted to tell them that they never get anything right. However, this is inaccurate.

They do get a lot of things right.

In addition, telling something that they never get something right insinuates that there is nothing they can do to get things right. This can hurt someone and make them feel like they are worthless.


When someone is feeling sulky and ill-tempered, it is usually because they are going through a bad experience.

When you refer to him or her as grumpy, it shows that you don’t really care about what they are going through. You are essentially saying that what they are going through is meaningless.


When you tell someone that something about them is ridiculous, you are implying that their opinion/ideas are laughable.

Who wouldn’t feel inferior if people laughed at your ideas or suggestions?


Can someone really be useless? Even a doormat is useful because it helps people clean their shoes as they get into a building.

By telling someone that they are useless, you are implying that they are even worse than a doormat, that they add no value on earth.

Everyone has something good about them, so you should avoid referring to anyone as useless.


You are now aware of the negative effects of these 25 words and the damage they can cause to other people.

Take note of these words and try as much as possible to avoid using them in reference to other people.

By doing so, not only will you improve your relationships with other people, but you will also become a better person.

25 Bad Words That Make Other People Feel Inferior 

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