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Real Killer Phrases – Things You Say That Can Kill Your Business

Children’s activity centers of all types are usually run by a very close knit group of people who can range from creatives who just want to share the passion for their craft with children to business-minded number crunchers, from direct talkers to introverted loners – and even passive-aggressives. The relationships between each person in the group are important and can be affected by something as simple as a few words.

Folks of every type often use words that are less than positive in the workplace, but sometimes passive-aggressive behavior inspires unproductiveness and results in decreased trust of those who use the language and those who hear it in the workplace. Passive-aggressiveness is frustrating for everyone involved.  Passive-aggressive behavior easily invades daily language and is actually exhibited in a dozen phrases that are very commonly used and usually considered pretty innocuous.

Ask John Rampton how harmless these phrases are. He shared his interpretation of these phrases in a recent article which was inspired by his own experience. I’ve added perspective from my own business experiences along with his below. After reading, you just might change your mind about ever using these phrases again.


Generally, when stated about how they’re doing, the statement of “fine” means just the opposite. It took very little time to prove this correct. Psychology Today experts note that “the passive aggressive person uses phrases like ‘Fine’ in order to express anger indirectly and to shut down direct, emotionally honest communication.” So saying you are “fine” actually indicates to others that there are issues and you refuse to talk about them.

No worries.

According to Thought Catalog author Christine Schoenwald, if you use this phrase, you actually do have worries. In fact, you wish you could really say “to heck with you,” but saying just “no worries” gets you out of the situation without confrontation – and then you go off and kick the cat.

If you really want to.

This one is deceiving at first, because it sounds like you’re being gracious and accommodating. But not really. This is very noncommittal language that puts all of the blame for the decision on them and not on you. You may want to disagree, but you don’t know how to express it.

Thanks in advance.

Another deceiver. This pretty much just says “you’re going to do this regardless of what you prefer.” It’s a huge assumption that can be damaging to the relationship you have with whomever you say it to.

I was surprised/confused/curious about…

This is simply a disguise for criticism instead of being upfront about it. Perhaps you don’t know how to give constructive criticism or how to tell someone that they’ve under-delivered/failed and you’re trying to soften the blow. This can damage your relationship with this person, but it can also damage the perception of that person by others if it is said within a group.

I’m not mad.

This is a lie. It’s simply you refusing to express how you feel. You may feel that being open and honest with your opinions can hurt people’s feelings. Well, NOT expressing your real feelings is worse.  If someone says this to you, they are really livid, they just don’t feel like they can be honest with you. The results of using language like this proves how important it is to express how you feel.


When this phrase gets used, one party in the conversation is probably already irritated. Using the phrase only makes the second party mad. It doesn’t help. There is no good reason to use this phrase unless your goal is to throw fuel on the fire.


Such a little word. Such a powerful punch. And it works that way because it’s usually followed with language that shows agitation. “So…. did you get my email?” really means “Why are you being a jerk and ignoring my email?” And everyone else knows it.

It can also start the first sentence of a conversation that the party using it doesn’t want to make. One which they know the recipient doesn’t want to hear.

Regardless of which definition is correct, it’s best to be straightforward and say what you mean. Perhaps it means you need to brush up on your directness or your delivery of bad news.

Just wondering…

If you use this language, you’re most likely going to follow it with an unreasonable request. “Just wondering if you could have those 10 changes made in 30 minutes?” You know you shouldn’t be asking for this “favor,” but you don’t have the good sense not to ask. It can also reveal a lack of self-confidence, because you’re always “just wondering” about everything.

I was only joking.

This one is pure sarcasm and is one of the most common manifestations of passive aggressiveness.  If you follow an irritating/upsetting  comment with this language, you’re simply being sarcastic about saying “and I really mean that.” “I was only joking” is a cover-up of your true feelings. This is even worse if you use it on front of others. It’s a huge put-down.

Hope it’s worth it.

In stating this, you’re really saying “I hope you’re ready to take the blame for your dumb decision.” Making this statement and then stewing on it can turn an unfortunate decision into a real “situation.” And the worst part is that it could have all been avoided if you had just said what you really think about what you know this person is going to do – you could “help them” decide against doing it.

Your thoughts?

This can be very patronizing language that is also sometimes quite harmless. In most cases, speaking it simply is asking for someone’s thoughts on a lunch meeting, for example. But it can be a backhanded way to tell someone they messed up. You may just assume that adding “your thoughts?” makes it less of a blow. “I wasn’t happy with how this content turned out, your thoughts?” This shows the person you’re speaking to that you don’t value your relationship to just speak openly with them. It can be very damaging in the workplace.

Undoubtedly, there are always many ways that businesses can be improved and individuals can grow. But this one is a no-brainer. If simply changing a little lingo can improve the way those who work with or for you feel about themselves, their job and about you, why wouldn’t you do it immediately? It’s a small investment in one thing (your effort) in order to reap huge rewards.


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