8 Phrases You’re Using That Accidentally Minimize Your Coworkers

8 Phrases You’re Using That Accidentally Minimize Your Coworkers

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Fairygodboss
April 13, 2024 at 8:49AM UTC

“Well, think of the positive side.” “It can’t be as bad as all that.” “At least you have XYZ to be grateful for!” 

Sometimes, the language we use can have consequences we didn’t intend for. Silver-lining types have probably had the occasion to learn this over the course of the pandemic — or at least, that’s been true for a friend of mine. 

After a coworker shared with her the toll COVID had been taking on her mental health, my friend quickly went for her go-to response tactic — attempting to cheer the other party up by pointing out things to feel optimistic about. As well-meaning as my friend was, her approach didn’t exactly land. Although the coworker stayed silent at the time, she later wrote my friend to tell her the response had felt dismissive and minimizing. Sometimes, you’re not looking for a “fix” from the other party, after all. You simply want to be heard. 

Although COVID has given us more opportunities to be accidentally dismissive, it’s a type of language that most of us have, at some point, been guilty of using. Below, here are 8 phrases you may have used at work without realizing it was minimizing your coworkers. 

1. “I don’t think it’s that serious.”

If the other party is coming to you with a concern, this response essentially calls their concern invalid. It’s better to say something to the effect of: “I see your point! Here’s how I’m thinking of it...” 

2. “Let’s just talk about it offline.” 

Context here counts. Sometimes, this age-old meeting line is totally appropriate, as it’s important to keep meetings on track and some items will be worth separate conversations. But if the way in which you say it essentially silences the other party and ends the conversation, it’s worth rethinking.

3. “I’ll take care of it; it’s just easier if I do!” 

To indicate that working with the other person is more trouble than it’s worth — even if that happens to be true — isn’t the best relationship-building tactic. 

4. “It doesn’t matter to me.”

If your opinion is being sought, that’s a compliment — try to treat it as such by showing interest in the person’s query, rather than brushing it aside.

5. “You feel busy? Wait until you hear what all’s on my plate…”

This one should be pretty self-explanatory, but any language that suggests you’re one-upping the other party is worth avoiding.

6. “I’m still not following you.”

Having trouble catching their meaning? Maybe instead try: “Could you give an example?” or “Could you put that another way?”

7. “You didn’t have to do all that.”

Maybe they didn’t have to, but at any rate, they did. Recognize the contribution and move on.

8. “Sorry, that’s not a priority for me right now.”

You should absolutely protect your time and to-do list. But rather than make clear that the other party isn’t or can’t be a priority, try simply going the route of: “This is great! The soonest I’m able to help with this is this date.” 

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