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:
- How Workplace Bullies Use OODA: I
- Workplace bullies who succeed in carrying on their activities over a long period of time rely on more
than mere intimidation to escape prosecution. They proactively shape their environments to make them
safe for bullying. The OODA model gives us insights into how they accomplish this.
- Workplace Bullying and Workplace Conflict: I
- Bullying is unlike other forms of toxic conflict. That's why the tools we use to address toxic conflict
simply do not work for bullying. In this Part I, we contrast bullying and ordinary toxic conflict.
- When the Chair Is a Bully: I
- Most meetings have chairs or "leads." Although the expression that the chair "owns"
the meeting is usually innocent shorthand, some chairs actually believe that they own the meeting. This
view is almost entirely destructive. What are the consequences of this attitude, and what can we do about it?
- Social Isolation and Workplace Bullying
- Social isolation is a tactic widely used by workplace bullies. What is it? How do bullies use it? Why
do bullies use it? What can targets do about it?
- Judging Others
- Being "judgmental" is a stance most people recognize as transgressing beyond widely accepted
social norms. But what's the harm in judging others? And why do so many people do it so often?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming January 22: Disjoint Awareness: Bias
- Some cognitive biases can cause people in collaborations to have inaccurate understandings of what each other is doing. Confirmation bias and self-serving bias are two examples of cognitive biases that can contribute to disjoint awareness in some situations. Available here and by RSS on January 22.
- And on January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people 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.