Stop If You Use Any Of These Passive-Aggressive Phrases

Email can be an incredibly effective way to communicate, but you must use caution. So much can be misconstrued by an unintentionally curt sentence, a light-hearted comment or a friendly emoji that doesn't get received the way you intended.

Scott Mautz, an author and award-winning keynote speaker, says professionals often create problems with email by not communicating enough, not being clear enough or sending communication that is taken the wrong way. The latter most often happens when professionals use phrases that the recipient views as passive aggressive. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share his phrases to avoid from the least offensive to the most offensive.

"Going forward I'd prefer ..." Going forward the person who reads this line would prefer you not use it again, says Mautz. This phrase is super-passive aggressive because it assumes that what happened in the past didn't work. The reader sees it as, "Look, what happened in the past is the past, but you can, and will, correct it in the future." An alternative is a good old-fashioned face-to-face conversation. Asking change of someone involves emotions, which are always better handled in person.

"According to my records ..." Mautz dislikes this phrase because sounds so formal and uptight. Is this a cross-examination or an email? He says an alternative could be: "I honestly could have this wrong, but from what I think I know ...," or, "The way I see it is ..."

"Any updates on this?" Mautz says when he sees this phrase, he can't help but picture the sender standing with arms crossed, foot tapping and a smirk on his face. An alternative: "I'm guessing you're swamped-so, sorry to bug you, but what's the latest on ... It would help to know because ..."

"Please let me know if I've misunderstood." What you're really saying here is, "We both know you've got this wrong." This one is the most disingenuous of the lot because the recipient knows you do not think you have it wrong in any way, shape or form. An alternative: If you suspect you got something wrong, pick up the phone and chat about the issue.

"Just a friendly reminder ..." It's not friendly. You know it and they know it, says Mautz. Instead, you could say: "I honestly hate when people bug me about something, but I'm forced to be 'that guy/girl' here in reminding you that ... because ..."

"As per my last email ..." You may as well say, "You obviously didn't read my last email, so let me try again, dummy." This one is just plain rude and smacks of the assumption that the recipient has nothing better to do than to sit around waiting for your email to flow into their inbox. An alternative: "If you don't mind my reinforcing a point I made before, only because it's so important ..."

Before you hit send on your next email, make sure you're not communicating the wrong message.

Source: Scott Mautz is the author of Find The Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration and Make Work Exciting Again. He's also an award-winning keynote speaker and a seasoned Proctor & Gamble veteran who successfully ran several of the company's largest multibillion-dollar businesses.

filed under September 2019
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