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:
- Encourage Truth Telling
- Getting to the truth can be a difficult task for managers. People sometimes withhold, spin, or slant
reports, especially when the implications are uncomfortable or threatening. A culture that supports
truth telling can be an organization's most valuable asset.
- 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.
- Dismissive Gestures: III
- Sometimes we use dismissive gestures to express disdain, to assert superior status, to exact revenge
or as tools of destructive conflict. And sometimes we use them by accident. They hurt personally, and
they harm the effectiveness of the organization. Here's Part III of a little catalog of dismissive gestures.
- Masked Messages
- Sometimes what we say to each other isn't what we really mean. We mask the messages, or we form them
into what are usually positive structures, to make them appear to be something less malicious than they
are. Here are some examples of masked messages.
- Suspense Is Not Your Friend
- Most of us have to talk to other people at work. Whether to peers, subordinates, or superiors, sometimes
we must convey information that can be complicated when delivered in full detail. To convey complicated
ideas effectively, avoid suspense.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 25: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VI
- Narcissistic behavior at work distorts decisions, disrupts relationships, and generates toxic conflict. These consequences limit the ability of the organization to achieve its goals. In this part of our series we examine the effects of exploiting others for personal ends. Available here and by RSS on April 25.
- And on May 2: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VII
- Narcissistic behavior at work prevents trusting relationships from developing. It also disrupts existing relationships, and generates toxic conflict. One class of behaviors that's especially threatening to relationships is disregard for the feelings of others. In this part of our series we examine the effects of that disregard. Available here and by RSS on May 2.
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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.