Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 13, Issue 6;   February 6, 2013: Reframing Hurtful Dismissiveness

Reframing Hurtful Dismissiveness

by

Targets of dismissive remarks often feel that their concerns are being judged as unimportant, which can be painful when their concerns are real. But there is an alternative to pain. It requires a little skill and discipline, but it can work.
An Eastern Hog-Nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) with head flattened in a threat posture

An Eastern Hog-Nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) with head flattened in a threat posture. Many species use threat postures to deter predators, or competitors of their own species. The Eastern Hog-Nosed Snake flattens its head and hisses, in the manner of adders and other venomous snakes, though the Eastern Hog-Nosed Snake is not venomous itself. If the threat posture doesn't work, the Eastern Hog-Nosed Snake then flips over on its back and plays dead.

One way to reframe the behavior of offenders is to view it as a threat posture. Resisting the threat of an offender, or choosing not to be cowed by it, could possibly expose the behavior as the same kind of empty posing as that used by the Eastern Hog-Nosed Snake. Photo courtesy North Carolina Department of Parks and Recreation.

To reframe is to intentionally change one's perspective on events. For example, when someone comments on your weight, and your weight is within reasonable bounds, reframing can convert your experience from feeling criticized to questioning how anyone could say anything so unhinged from reality. Instead of offense or pain, the reframer might experience puzzlement or curiosity.

Reframing helps in many situations, but we focus on it here because it's the second R of a 3-R sequence for dealing with hurtfully dismissive remarks. Here are some reframes for hurtful dismissiveness.

It's about the offender, not the target
Dismissive comments involve at least two and possibly more people. The first is the offender — the person who delivers the dismissive comment. The second is the target, who often overlooks the offender's role and that of the other people involved — the witnesses.
Out of negligence, anger, malice, or something else, offenders say hurtful things. Some want to impress the witnesses; some want to impress themselves. The hurtful comment often reveals more about the offender than about the target.
Misunderstanding can be willful
Targets of To reframe is to intentionally
change one's perspective
on events
dismissive comments such as "You're making way too much of it," or "Don't be so sensitive," often feel an urge to justify their perspective. They assume that the offender doesn't understand. Maybe so, but rarely.
Sometimes the offender has adopted a pretense of misunderstanding, or a pretense of having another view, hoping thereby to manipulate the target into accepting the offender's perspective as legitimate. Targets who can reframe the offender's stance as manipulative might then arrive at a more useful understanding of the dismissive comment.
You're responsible for your feelings
Offenders can't make targets feel any particular emotion. What actually happens is that the targets use the dismissive comment to enable themselves to feel what they feel. Usually, they feel bad.
Targets who recognize that they're the authors of their own feelings are more likely to be able to control their responses to dismissive comments. They can choose something other than pain, such as wonderment or amusement or curiosity.
Offenders' motives vary
Among those who intentionally inflict pain on others, motives vary. Some want to advance their own status in the organization; some want to fluster the target; some seek revenge for real or imagined past harm. Others inflict pain because of a compulsion; or they seek a sense of dominance; or they want to make others feel as bad as they do.
Understanding the motives of offenders can be helpful to anyone who seeks an end to the offender's behavior. View each incident as additional data that can help in that effort.

Finally, targets can reframe the fact of the presence of offenders in their lives. They can see these relationships as sources of opportunities to practice reframing. First in this series | Next in this series Go to top Top  Next issue: Preventing the Hurt of Hurtful Dismissiveness  Next Issue

101 Tips for Managing Conflict Are you fed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you or a colleague the target of a bully? Destructive conflict can ruin organizations. But if we believe that all conflict is destructive, and that we can somehow eliminate conflict, or that conflict is an enemy of productivity, then we're in conflict with Conflict itself. Read 101 Tips for Managing Conflict to learn how to make peace with conflict and make it an organizational asset. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenhUIsxIAfhQeKqLhEner@ChaclpfRGKCfxZpqbSVxoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Effective Communication at Work:

Two straw menDecision-Making and the Straw Man
In project work, we often make decisions with incomplete information. Sometimes we narrow the options to a few, examine their strengths and risks, and make a choice. In our deliberations, some advocates use a technique called the Straw Man fallacy. It threatens the soundness of the decision, and its use is very common.
A MetronomeSelling Uphill: The Pitch
Whether you're a CEO or a project champion, you occasionally have to persuade decision-makers who have some kind of power over you. What do they look for? What are the key elements of an effective pitch? What does it take to Persuade Power?
A tournamentQuestioning Questions
In meetings and other workplace discussions, questioning is a common form of conversational contribution. Questions can be expensive, disruptive, and counterproductive. For most exchanges, there is a better way.
In the conference roomInterviewing the Willing: Tactics
When we need information from each other, even when the source is willing, we sometimes fail to expose critical facts. Here are some tactics for eliciting information from the willing.
The REI parking garage in Denver, ColoradoThe Limits of Status Reports: I
Some people erroneously believe that they can request status reports as often as they like, and including any level of detail they deem necessary. Not so.

See also Effective Communication at Work and Conflict Management for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

C. Northcote Parkinson in 1961Coming September 27: Meeting Troubles: Collaboration
In some meetings, we collaborate not in reaching objectives, but in preventing our doing so. Here are three examples of this pattern. Available here and by RSS on September 27.
A typical standup meetingAnd on October 4: Meeting Troubles: Culture
Sometimes meetings are less effective than they might be because of cultural factors that are outside our awareness. Here are some examples. Available here and by RSS on October 4.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenUuvxrLWNUutteMSRner@ChacoLaTpvHWnZULkVtNoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
21st Century Business TravelAre your business trips long chains of stressful misadventures? Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to get from here to there relaxed and refreshed? First class travel is one alternative, but you can do almost as well (without the high costs) if you know the tricks of the masters of 21st-century e-enabled business travel…
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.