Did you ever wonder what to say to the person in front of you at the check-out, the mom wrangling the grocery cart and crying toddler, or the unassuming patron of your business/eatery? Well, fear not, here is a list of possible comments to make when you just can’t fathom letting a stranger go on with their life without interjecting, thoughtfully grouped into easy to understand categories. Feel free to keep a printed version of this list neatly folded in your wallet or purse for convenient use on-the-go use.
Any mother you happen to see out in the world with her child(ren):
“Oh, you have your hands full!”
This is most useful for mothers of multiples, or multiple children close in age. do not offer to help, that’d be forward. This is just a helpful comment reminding them they have a lot of children, in case they forgot.
“You’re going to miss this!/Enjoy every moment/Aren’t kids just the best?”
This is best used when you find yourself near a mom who is shushing a crying toddler while pleading through her teeth at her five-year-old to stop hiding in the clothing racks, god damn it.
“Your baby is chewing paper/the cart/her jacket.”
Moms can’t watch their babies 100% of the time, that’s where strangers need to step up and do it for them, and then let them know they’re laying down on the job. Also, babies rarely chew things they’re not supposed to chew, so you’re providing a very astute observation.
Ask of any mom who brings her baby out of doors, especially if they look like they may still be recovering from birth. They may have distracted themselves from the all-consuming dread of nightfall for a few ill-advised minutes and need to be reminded that they’ll have to do bedtime once again in mere hours. If mom sadly shakes her head with a dead-eye stare and reveals the child is not a good sleeper, offer the last sleeping advice you read on the internet somewhere as a magic pill solution. Watch her nod her head slowly in the realization that you have offered her the answer to her prayers. How helpful you are!
“Candy before dinner! What a lucky kid!”
The family dinner is dying, we all have to do our part to keep it on life support. A gentle reminder that personal food choice is a public health concern can be supremely useful to a young parent.
“Your baby looks cold/hot/sad/uncomfortable.”
It takes a village to raise a child. Your opinion of every infant’s perceived feelings are invaluable feedback to mothers everywhere. She might not know her baby as well as you do, now that you’ve spent five seconds in near proximity to the child.
“Wouldn’t you be more comfortable nursing somewhere private?”
Nursing mothers need to feel supported to feed their babies in the most natural way possible– in tiny rooms away from all other humans.
“You’re so lucky your husband is such a hands-on dad!”
Men who step up to do things like take their children to the bathroom so their wives can finish a meal while it’s still hot are actual heroes among men and their wives deserve to be reminded of this in every instance.
“Oh, it’s not scanning? It must be free.”
This is every cashier’s favorite joke. They do not hear it enough.
“Don’t look so happy!”
They’ve been ringing up groceries for eight hours on their feet and sometimes exhaustion can leave a person with lackluster customer service skills. This reminder helps ensure they really earn their minimum wage.
Any litany of personal questions
Everyone likes to be asked about their family status, educational history, and opinion on politics while trying to survive yet another day in the capitalist machine.
A Person Eating at an American Casual Restaurant
“Are you sure you want to order that? It’s a lot of food.”
If only people stopped to think about their food choice, they might make better choices. You’re basically a free health coach. How benevolent of you to offer this feedback.
“Wow, someone was hungry.”
Commenting on an adult finishing their meal is a nostalgic reminder of childhood clean plate clubs and never induces feelings of great shame.
“Oh, I thought you were joking about ordering dessert.”
Hahah! How much more food can one person eat! This is a funny joke! Dessert! They are laughing on the inside, I promise. Hahaha.
“You look tired.”
While a “are you feeling ok?” may get to the same end result, a pointed “you look tired” manages to do so without providing the subtext that you actually care. Win win.
People* sometimes forget it is their social obligation to smile absolutely all the time. No one wants to look at your frownie face, no matter if your dog just died or you lost your job. This is America. We smile here. Reminding people to smile is a patriotic act.
* Women. Men are only obligated to smile at sporting events when their team is winning and/or when they are running for office. Duh.
Remember, feedback is most useful when it is unsolicited from people who you’ve never met before and won’t ever see again! Now you are rightfully armed with an arsenal of comments for just about any occasion you happen to run into strangers and are met with the intense need to speak in their general direction, but not put forth the effort to have a meaningful connection.
This article was originally published on