10 Dismissive Words that Good Leaders Don’t Use

By | March 1, 2021

[March 1, 2021]  Good communication is one of the keys to successful leadership.  We all know this to be true because we have all witnessed what happens when what we say is unclear, meandering, insulting, or off-topic.  Great leaders are always on guard against dismissive words.

“We prematurely write off people as failures. We are too much in awe of those who succeed and far too dismissive of those who fail.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Regular readers of this leadership blog know a consistent theme: real leaders who care, make practical and moral decisions.  To care means taking care of yourself, your family, your community, and your team.  Thus, a leader’s words do matter.

Here are some common words (or phrases) that you will hear careless leaders say.  I would wager good money you have heard them many times, and I would also wager you were ticked off, as well.  There are many more, of course, and I suggest readers post them in the comments section.

  1.  I got it.  Listening and then saying, “thank you” is far more appropriate. I stopped using this in conversations, and it was not easy. I’d not realized how ingrained it was for me.
  2.  It’s not about you. This phrase is a way of saying that your thoughts and actions are not relevant to the conversation and just “shut up.”
  3.  That’s for later.  The phrase is in response to a clearly stated idea, or initiative is dismissive.  Pushing off an idea until an undefined “later” doesn’t do any good to the person who said it or the person who heard it
  4.  It is what it is.  This phrase is the ultimate in shirking responsibility.  It’s an explanation that explains absolutely nothing. We are saying that tradition and inertia are more important and more attractive than actually trying to do something about a problem or condition.
  5.  That’s a stupid idea.  This phrase might fly with your friends, but not in the workplace, and actually not with your friends. No one should be told their idea is “stupid,” even if it is.
  6.  That’s not my problem.  How gut-wrenching does it feel when you come to someone with a problem, and they respond with, “It’s not my problem.” The person using this phrase is also saying, “Get lost!”
  7.  Thanks, but we have tried that before. Such words suggest in a big way that you are not smart enough to think of an original solution to a problem.
  8.  Good luck with that.  Another trivializing of someone’s’ ideas. This saying is a flippant way of communicating that you, as a leader, do not care what is being said or done.
  9.  It’s not about you.  This is a sweeping generalization that takes everything others say and negates it. It says that they’re only thinking about their own needs and desires.
  10.  It’s not rocket science. Whenever a team or employee struggles with a task and thinks it should be much easier than it is, this dismissive statement is often the go-to phrase. In reality, the phrase adds nothing to the conversation except insulting others.
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “10 Dismissive Words that Good Leaders Don’t Use

  1. Flappy Red

    I’ve used these as well. How embarrassing! I can and will do better.

  2. Dale Paul Fox

    Once again, Gen. Satterfield, you’ve hit a home run with this article. I enjoyed the list mostly because I’ve seen them all employed by poor leaders. Mostly those leaders are weak mentally and are easily felled by the slightest breeze.

  3. America First

    Live the way Gen. Satterfield writes about practical issues you can use every single day.
    By America First! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

    1. Pollster

      Spot on comment. These are easily used without even thinking. Bad habits are hard to fix.

  4. Linux Man

    Gen. Satterfield, great list. I like the idea. What is important for your readers to distinguish is that dismissive words diminish our being and makes us less likely to work hard, tell the truth, and have integrity. Rather, it does the opposite in many. IMO.

    1. corralesdon

      Possibly, Linus Man. I don’t necessarily think dismissive comments make us less honest or less brave. Now, it does have a negative effect on those who are not strong enough to take it. That is the real problem, if there is a problem at all.

    2. Willie Shrumburger

      Linus Man, you have a point here but I’m not so sure. The issue for me is that people have a range of strengths and weaknesses. Some will not do well with dismissive words, while others will do great (motivation factor).

      1. Greg Heyman

        True enough, Willie but the problem, I think, for leaders is that they don’t always know who is who. Or, maybe they do in certain situations and thus dismissive words can be a benefit when used a certain way in a certain given situation.

        1. Faulkner S.

          Right, let’s not forget that dismissive words can have differing effects. Or, two sides of a coin.

  5. Eric Coda

    Ha Ha Ha, I liked “it’s not rocket science.” Boy, I’ve sure heard that one plenty of times. It is a put down but I consider many of those listed here as words to motivate. Yeah, you could take them as dismissive and insults that demotivate many folks. Those are weak people. For the strong, it motivates (a negative motivation that works). Just my thinking.

  6. Harold M. Smith II

    “You’re being crazy.”
    “I thought this was a strength of yours.”
    “Calm Down.” – My favorite

    1. Jeff Blackwater

      I like your list Harold. There are many favorites that Gen. Satterfield has tackled for us. Today’s article is very appropriate as our culture has slowly devolved to insults and violence to settle disagreements. Our political elites are encouraging this behavior by example and word. Sad.

  7. Yusaf from Texas

    My favorite: “It’s not worth getting upset about.” Ha Ha. Bet you’ve heard that one before.

  8. Max Foster

    Excellent list. These are “dismissive” words (or phrases) and not direct insults. I would be more direct, if I wanted to be a jerk boss. Like “you are an idiot.” Now that gets your attention, doesn’t it. Or, I could be like American Democrats and simply riot, murder, and burn down the city. Now that will not get your attention and if it does, the FBI wants to ‘interview’ you today, of course, without your lawyer present.

    1. Rev. Michael Cain

      Ouch, great post, Max. I’m glad you are one of many who see the FBI being in lockstep with those who want to shut down free speech and assembly. Gee, I would have hoped the founding fathers had thought of that … oh, they did, it’s called the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Oh well, under Biden-Harris, you can kiss that good bye.

      1. Audrey

        Max and Rev Cain, thanks for your lucid thoughts on such an important issue and one that is being hidden away by out “betters.”

      2. Tom Bushmaster

        Excellent comments. That is why I like coming to Gen. Satterfield’s comment forum. We sure do get an extra load of smart comments.

    2. Army Captain

      In the army we are treated to a continuous stream of insults in our introduction to the military to toughen our minds to such talk. But the affect is still present. Good comment, max.

    3. Dead Pool Guy

      Max, well said and spot on. We’ve all had that “jerk boss” who is a real pain in the neck but often as we look back on our work history, those are the bosses who got us to make ourselves better and more productive and happier overall. As opposed to the weak boss who says and does nothing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.