Phrases Guaranteed to Put You on the Losing Side of an Argument at Work
Specific words and phrases used in an argument while at work can escalate matters instead of resolving issues. Some of these words are obvious. For others that may be less obvious, we reached out to Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, founder of Slatkin Communications in Baltimore. His business helps companies sort out workplace and communication differences.
Of course, it’s not just about the words you say. Pair the phrases listed here with an incensed tone of voice and aggressive body language, and you’ll not only lose the quarrel, but you’ll also make yourself unlikable. A study, conducted by Albert Mehrabian and published by The Nonverbal Group, revealed that only 7 percent of communication is the actual words we speak, while 38 percent comes from vocal elements like tone of voice and 55 percent of our communication is through body language.
And it’s difficult to say any of the following 15 phrases in a cool, composed tone and with a relaxed body language.
Phrase No. 1
Other variations: “Cool your jets,” “Give it a rest,” and “Simmer down” all say the same thing, making you sound like you’re training your dog. Your colleague hears that his or her feelings aren’t valid, which incenses the person even more. Emotions are already running high and these words enrage your rival even more.
Phrase No. 2
Young Sheldon responds to this — it’s said often on his TV show — saying calmly, “No I’m not. Mom had me tested.” But in an office argument, your co-worker hears you saying he or she is mentally ill and becomes inflamed. This is a personal attack that’s impossible to unsay.
Phrase No. 3
Or the variation, “You always do that.”These are broad generalizations and exaggerations. Most likely, they’re not true. Vocalizing these words will exacerbate your opponent’s anger and make them feel condemned. You’re also being offensive. Don’t use these phrases in relationship fights either or you’ll sleep on the sofa.
Phrase No. 4
Said not in the polite, just-trying-to-get-to-a-meeting-through-a-crowded-aisle way, but in an accusatory way, with the emphasis on the “cuse” and the two words together pronounced like a teen would when you tell them “no.” In a workplace argument, this phrase signals more confrontation.
Phrase No. 5
Judgmental and negative words that are one way for you to be shown the door. This phrase along with “my job stinks” only reflects poorly on you. You may not have expressed your feelings about your employer in front of management, however your adversary may have a mean streak and gleefully passes on what you said to higher ups.
Phrase No. 6
You’re just asking the other person to prove you wrong, a good strategy if you want to fail. What if our famous inventors had accepted those words from their naysayers. We wouldn’t have electric light bulbs, telephones, televisions or airplanes. “Never” is a very long time.
Phrase No. 7
Even if this saying is true, that doesn’t make this “way” the right way or the best way. Only an unprofessional afraid of change turns to this cliché. Change is essential to get a business to the next level of success. “We’ve always done it this way” labels you as disinterested and uncaring.
Phrase No. 8
These words set you up as controlling, which is not a popular concept in the workplace. You’re also insinuating that your co-worker is wrong, and you have decided how they should act because you don’t think they can make the right decision.
Phrase No. 9
When asked to help, and you respond with “that’s not in my job description” or something similar, you’re seen as the opposite of a team player and already on the losing end of the argument.
Phrase No. 10
Rabbi Slatkin says these two words invalidate the other person and imply that he or she doesn’t have a viewpoint.
Phrase No. 11
Although often used as a term of endearment, Slatkin says substituting “honey” for the person’s name can come across as condescending. That flares up tensions to the point where it will be difficult to repair the relationship.
Phrase No. 12
“Commiserating is not really listening because it is not truly focused on the other person,” said Slatkin. You can’t possibly know how they feel.
Phrase No. 13
This is shaming and nullifying, says Slatkin. By putting your opponent on the defensive, you’ll have a hard time getting them to listen to your perspective, let alone agree with it.
Phrase No. 14
This can also negate the other person’s ideas, explains Slatkin. “You’re entitled to your own opinion and should share it but arguing with your adversary’s perspective instead of sharing yours is usually not a good way to win an argument,” he said.
Phrase No. 15
Slatkin says this phrase or most any that begin with the word “but” are ways to defend yourself. Any terms used to excuse your behavior will harm your case.