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:
- Selling Uphill: Before and After
- Whether you're a CEO appealing to your Board of Directors, your stockholders or regulators, or a project
champion appealing to a senior manager, you have to "sell uphill" from time to time. Persuading
decision-makers who have some kind of power over us is a challenging task. How can we prepare the way
for success now and in the future?
- Changing the Subject: II
- Sometimes, in conversation, we must change the subject, but we also do it to dominate, manipulate, or
assert power. Subject changing — and controlling its use — can be important political skills.
- 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."
- When the Answer Isn't the Point: II
- Sometimes, when we ask questions, we're more interested in eliciting behavior from the person questioned,
rather than answers. Here's Part II of a set of techniques questioners use when the answer to the question
wasn't the point of asking.
- That Was a Yes-or-No Question: II
- When, in the presence of others, someone asks you "a simple yes or no" question, beware. Chances
are that you're confronting a trap. Here's Part II of a set of suggestions for dealing with the yes-or-no
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
- A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.
- And on August 1: Strategies of Verbal Abusers
- Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers rely on to avoid disciplinary action. Available here and by RSS on August 1.
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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.