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:
- You and I
- In tense discussions, the language we use often contributes to the tension. If we can transform the
statements we make about each other into statements about ourselves, we can eliminate an important source
of tension and stress.
- Virtual Communications: III
- Participating in or managing a virtual team presents special communications challenges. Here's Part
III of some guidelines for communicating with members of virtual teams.
- How to Eliminate Meetings
- Reducing the length and frequency of meetings is the holy grail of organizational science. I've attended
many meetings on this topic, most of which have come to naught. Here are some radical ideas that could
change our lives.
- Twelve Tips for More Masterful Virtual Presentations: I
- Virtual presentations are like face-to-face presentations, in that one (or a few) people present a program
to an audience. But the similarity ends there. In the virtual environment, we have to adapt if we want
to deliver a message effectively. We must learn to be captivating.
- Interrupting Others in Meetings Safely: III
- When we need to interrupt someone who's speaking in a meeting, we risk giving offense. Still, there
are times when interrupting is in everyone's best interest. Here are some more techniques for interrupting
in situations not addressed by the meeting's formal process.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 17: Overt Belligerence in Meetings
- Some meetings lose their way in vain attempts to mollify a belligerent participant who simply will not be mollified. Here's one scenario that fits this pattern. Available here and by RSS on October 17.
- And on October 24: Conversation Irritants: I
- Conversations at work can be frustrating even when everyone tries to be polite, clear, and unambiguous. But some people actually try to be nasty, unclear, and ambiguous. Here's Part I of a small collection of their techniques. Available here and by RSS on October 24.
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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.