Where has civilized discourse gone? Television shouting matches, rage-filled radio and outlandish insults on social media are seeping into personal conversations. A recent poll found that three quarters of Americans agree that good manners have dramatically declined in recent years.

Here are five common conversational openings that are particularly problematic – and alternatives we can all choose to say instead.

People like you….

“People like you” shuts down a conversation before it even begins. It broadcasts to people that you have already decided all you need to know about them.

I remember once meeting a woman who told me, in a huff, “I know what people like you must think of me!” and walked off. To this day I have no idea what she meant by “people like me”. Orthodox Jews? Women? People with blue eyes?

The Jewish sage Hillel cautioned that we can never really know another person until we make the effort to learn about their life: “Do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place” (Pirkei Avot 2:4). People are complex and worth getting to know. Next time you’re tempted to sweepingly refer to “people like you” (or “people like them”), stop and rephrase your statement as a question. That serious-looking person you're talking to might actually have a great sense of humor; someone who seems completely different from you might share the same hobby or tastes. Appearances can be deceiving, and the beauty of conversation is in helping us to find the common ground that brings us together.

This might be offensive, but…

This one has lots of variations: “I know this isn’t PC...”, “This might sound racist”, “You’re not going to like what I’m about to say…” If you’re starting a sentence with a warning of the offense your comments are going to cause someone, stop and ask yourself if you truly want to be saying this at all.

I know what you’re going to say….

Conversation can enable us to learn from and draw closer to others as we share experiences and thoughts – or it can be a chance to talk past each other, never really listening to others’ side. Being convinced that we already know the other person’s opinions all but guarantees that we won’t truly engage and hear what other people have to say.

The American Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.” A truly wise person doesn’t assume they know everything about their interlocutor and makes an effort to truly listen, without preconceived conceptions about what they might hear.

Did you hear that….

Repeating gossip has far-reaching consequences. The Talmud (Arachin 15b) metaphorically warns that spreading gossip and slander “kills” three people: the person being gossiped about, the one speaking the slander, and the innocent listener who becomes and unwitting party to the denigration of others.

Instead of introducing a juicy piece of gossip into conversation, try keeping it to yourself instead. You’ll find yourself more respected as someone who can keep secrets – and also avoid causing some of the damage that slander and gossip can cause. As Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

You’re wrong….

An acquaintance of mine was mortified when someone told her, straight out and in front of a crowd, “What you are doing is totally wrong.” In addition to being untactful and rude, his comments directly violated a key Jewish principle: criticisms or rebukes must be delivered privately and with sensitivity.

Not only does this avoid embarrassing others, which the Torah teaches should be avoided at all cost, pointing out someone’s error (or what you think is their error) privately and politely is much more effective. Finding a way to speak to people you disagree with in a calm, respectful and disarming manner, can lead to real conversation and change in a way that public shouting matches with two egos on the line rarely do.

King Solomon wrote, “The gentle words of the wise are heard above the shouts of a king over fools….” (Ecclesiastes 9:17). That observation is particularly pertinent in today’s outrage-filled discourse. Let’s put some common sense and manners back into the way we speak to each other.