When we're dismissive towards others, they can experience pain. Retaliation, bad decisions, depressed performance, and broken relationships can follow. Dismissing others might feel satisfying, but it's expensive to the organization. If it's a repeated pattern of behavior, it's a performance issue.
Some offenders intend to throw their targets off balance, to inflict pain, or to gain advantage in debate. Others are unintentionally dismissive, but the results can be serious nonetheless.
Targets of dismissiveness usually cannot control the behavior of offenders, but they can learn to remain centered. There is a 3-R recipe for dealing with hurtful dismissiveness: Recognize the offense, Reframe the offense, and Reaffirm your own humanity.
Recognition begins with becoming familiar with the words offenders use. Because most of the examples below do have legitimate uses, both style of delivery and context determine whether they're being used offensively. For instance, "Forget it," in response to an apology can mean, "Apology accepted." But in response to a request for an explanation, it can be a dismissive rejection.
Here's a little catalog of dismissive remarks. Add more as you encounter them.
- Never mind.
- Don't worry about it.
- Talk to me later (or sometime).
- Sorry, gotta go.
- Not your (my) concern (affair, problem, worry).
- Stay focused.
- Not now. Maybe later.
- Ask me later.
- Let's not.
- Send me mail on that.
- It's complicated.
- You're overreacting.
- Welcome to the nineties.
- Let's not be panicky.
- Aren't you clever.
- Could be.
- Who knows? Or cares?
- [Interrupting] Yeah, yeah, I get it.
- Here we go again.
- Not again.
- Oh, that. Let's move on.
- There you go (she goes, he goes, they go) again.
- <laughs><changes subject>
- Stop the presses.
- Hold your horses.
- I hear you. (repeatedly)
- I take your point. (repeatedly)
- Yeah, I heard that.
- Yeah, I heard that yesterday (last week, last month).
- Everyone knows that.
- That's not news.
- I don't think it's quite that bad (serious).
- Get over it.
- You're making (way) too much of it.
- That's just the way she is (he is, they are).
- That's life.
- Get used to it.
- Only joking.
- Cool your jets.
- Take it easy.
- Take five.
- Give it a rest.
- Hold on there, Targets of dismissiveness usually
cannot control the behavior
of offenders, but they can
learn to remain centeredchief (pal).
- Big deal.
- I've (we've, you've, they've, he's, she's) done worse.
- You just can't leave it alone, can you?
- Nothing I (we, you) can do about that.
- Why does that matter?
- What's the difference?
- It doesn't really matter.
- Either way.
- Sucks to be you.
- Don't be so sensitive.
- Take a number.
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!
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More articles on Effective Communication at Work:
- Questioning 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.
- Have a Program, Not Just an Agenda
- In the modern organization, it's common to have meetings in which some people have never met —
and some never will. For these meetings, which are often telemeetings, an agenda isn't enough. You need
- What We Don't Know About Each Other
- We know a lot about our co-workers, but we don't know everything. And since we don't know what we don't
know, we sometimes forget that we don't know it. And then the trouble begins.
- Embolalia and Stuff Like That: II
- Continuing our exploration of embolalia — filler syllables, filler words, and filler phrases —
let us examine the more complex forms. Some of them are so complex that they appear to be actual content,
even when what they contain is little more than "um."
- Please Reassure Them
- When things go wildly wrong, someone is usually designated to investigate and assess the probability
of further trouble. That role can be risky. Here are three guidelines for protecting yourself if that
role falls to you.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 11: The Rhyme-as-Reason Effect
- When we speak or write, the phrases we use have both form and meaning. Although we usually think of form and meaning as distinct, we tend to assess as more meaningful and valid those phrases that are more beautifully formed. The rhyme-as-reason effect causes us to confuse the validity of a phrase with its aesthetics. Available here and by RSS on December 11.
- And on December 18: The Trap of Beautiful Language
- As we assess the validity of others' statements, we risk making a characteristically human error — we confuse the beauty of their language with the reliability of its meaning. We're easily thrown off by alliteration, anaphora, epistrophe, and chiasmus. Available here and by RSS on December 18.
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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.