There are tons of occasions for which you might want to send a greeting card, from birthdays to anniversaries to graduations to sympathies to encouragement, just to name a few. But what greeting cards all typically have in common is that they aim to convey the sender's care and warmth for the recipient. So the last thing you want to do is accidentally communicate the opposite by unintentionally sending a card with the wrong message. We asked relationship experts and mental health professionals for their takes on the worst thing you could say in a greeting card, and they agreed it's using too many statements that start with the word "I." Read on to find out why, and for other times you should be watching what you say, check out This Is the Worst Thing You Can Say When Giving a Gift.
"We must remember to not make it all about ourselves, but to put the person we're [writing to] at the forefront of our minds," explains licensed professional counselor Vanessa De Jesus Guzman, CEO of Free to Be Mindful. "For example, when writing a card to someone who just had someone pass away, we often state how sorry we are for their loss. But that's making it about ourselves."
If you're sending a greeting card, your intention is to honor, celebrate, or in some way express positive sentiments. Therefore, if you make the entire message about yourself, you've missed the mark. Sure, in some situations, it can be appropriate to share updates about your life, but it's important to have a balanced approach, no matter the occasion.
Instead, try reframing your sentiments to put your card's recipient at the center. Whatever you choose to say, keep compassion, empathy, and sensitivity top of mind.
Want more advice on what not to write? Read on for more tips from the pros, and for another situation that requires you being careful with your words, check out The Worst Thing You Could Say to an Old Friend.
Just signing your name.
The greeting card aisle can feel downright overwhelming. It's hard to pick the right one, let alone to come up with the perfect message. But don't focus on perfection. Just do your best to express you care, even if your message is brief. However, don't make it so brief as to just include your signature alone. That can communicate the opposite: a distinct impersonality and lack of care. Make it personal, be kind, and anything you write will likely be appreciated and treasured—even if it's just a sentence or two. And for more ways you could be offending people, check out The Rudest Thing You're Doing All the Time Without Knowing It.
Choosing a card for the wrong occasion.
Like we said, greeting card sections can be stressful and chaotic, with cards regularly misplaced in the wrong sleeves, and pre-printed messages with so much text, your eyes glaze over. But take your time to read the printed greeting and make sure it really matches what you want to say. (This author's husband once erroneously gave his father a greeting card meant for a "step-dad," which raised some eyebrows—and some questions.)
"When you go greeting card shopping, make sure it is for the right occasion," says relationship expert Amy Olson. "You don't want to congratulate your best friend on her baby with 'two times the giggles, double the fun.' So take time, read what's written inside, and then pick the right one." And for more behavior to look out for, here are The Rude Things You Didn't Realize You're Doing Every Day.
"The person you lost is in a better place now."
Writing a sympathy card can be daunting; it can be hard to know the exact right thing to say to someone in such a state. But suggesting the lost loved one is in a better place can be especially painful for the ones left behind to grieve. And senders should avoid religious references without foreknowledge of their appropriateness.
"Here is one I got after my husband passed away: 'Don't you worry, he's with Jesus now,'" says author and life coach Aidan Park. "If you don't know a person's religious background, do not write that in a card. Even if [the message matched my religious beliefs], it would hit hard to know my husband is now hanging with the coolest guy in the world while I'm here bawling my eyes out." And for more guidance for this situation, here's The Worst Thing You Could Say to Someone Who's Grieving.
"Hope you meet someone nice."
If you're sending a card to a single recipient, don't belabor this fact; it may come off as insulting, or even painful. "When I was a single woman struggling with chronic anxiety, I longed and dreamed about finding a person that would love me no matter how anxious and weird I am," says Sandra Glavan, the founder of Super Sensitive Sandi, a website for helping people reduce and manage anxiety. "Finding that person was not an easy task, and so when someone would ask me have I met anyone or write in a card, 'Hope you meet someone nice,' the pain of longing for love would drown me in sorrow." And for more words you shouldn't let slip with friends and family flying solo, check out 75 Things Single People Wish You'd Stop Saying.