The force of Evan's voice brought Doug back from his reverie, and mentally he played back Evan's last words. They were: "What do I have to say to get through to you people?" The meeting was now completely silent. Not everyone was as self-assured as Doug, who was now certain that some were actually frightened.
are both painful
to hear and
very easy to say'Sure enough,' Doug thought, 'he's lost it again.'
Evan has employed phrasing we've heard many times, beginning in childhood. It's an example of what I call a hurtful cliché — a phrase or construct that hurts, but which is also so common that we use it without thinking.
We have dozens of hurtful clichés. Not only are they painful to hear, but they also harm the speaker by threatening conversational cooperation. Here's a little catalog of some of the more common hurtful clichés. See "Hurtful Clichés: II," Point Lookout for July 27, 2005, for more.
but we use them
so often that
we forget how
much they hurtEducating others about stress management might be OK if they come to you seeking such advice. Otherwise, it can seem patronizing and offensive.
If you make a collection of hurtful clichés you use yourself, you'll use them less often — if you have half a brain, that is. Er, uh, I mean, collecting them makes you more aware of them, and if you're more aware, you're less likely to use them. Sorry about that. Next in this series Top Next Issue
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!
We sometimes use clichés as a means of achieving indirectness; indeed, that's one reason why phrases become clichés. For more on indirectness see "The True Costs of Indirectness," Point Lookout for November 29, 2006.
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More articles on Workplace Bullying:
- So You Want the Bullying to End: II
- If you're the target of a workplace bully, ending the bullying can be an elusive goal. Here are some
guidelines for tactics to bring it to a close.
- Power Mobbing at Work
- Mobbing is a form of group bullying of an individual — the target. Power mobbing occurs when a
politically powerful person orchestrates the mobbing. It's a form of bullying that's especially harmful
to the target and the organization.
- Even "Isolated Incidents" Can Be Bullying
- Many organizations have anti-bullying policies that address only repeated patterns of interpersonal
aggression. Such definitions expose the organization and its people to the harmful effects of "isolated
incidents" of interpersonal aggression, because even isolated incidents can be bullying.
- On Gratuitous Harshness
- Rejecting with gratuitous harshness the contributions of others can be an expensive pattern to tolerate
— or to indulge. Understanding how the costs arise and what factors exacerbate them is the first
step to controlling the pattern.
- Gaslighting Project Teams
- To gaslight people is to convince them to reject their own observations and believe what you want them
to believe. Gaslighting corrupts project management as surely as it destroys romantic relationships.
Here are some early indicators of gaslighting.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 13: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: I
- To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
- And on December 20: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
- When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
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