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Small Business Digest


Calling Co-Worker 'Stupid,' 'Ignorant' or 'Fool' Would Be Stupid, Ignorant and Foolish

Conflicts are bound to rise in the workplace, but how you deal with them is what will be remembered.

Barbara Pachter, business-etiquette expert and owner of Pachter & Associates, a New Jersey firm, offers six tips to help people maintain civility in everyday life, which can be helpful also in the business world.

“Don’t Attack Back” is the first tip, says Pachter, who reminds people that they shouldn’t act poorly just because someone is being rude to them. “Though it may feel good to say, ‘Well, what do you know, you idiot?’ it’s not going to build your credibility or accomplish anything.”

Agree to disagree is Pachter’s next step toward encouraging a more polite world. Using key phrases such as “I disagree, and here’s why,” makes more sense, and is more productive, then name-calling or screaming, she says. You can convey your dislike for an idea or topic without personally attacking the person who suggested it.

Manners go a long way toward winning people over, so it doesn’t hurt to frequently use “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” Offering help to people in need, greeting people when you see them, and not ignoring people are ways to maintain polite behavior in your world.

Admitting when one is wrong takes a big person, but doing so can be the basis for building civil, healthy relationships, she says.

Stop the whining. “If you don’t like something, instead of complaining about it, do something,” says the communications and business etiquette expert. “Get involved. Join organizations. Politely object.”

And if all else fails, simply walk away.

In recent months, public figures and celebrities have provided prime examples of how not to behave. Pachter points to U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson's shouting “You lie!” to President Obama during a speech to Congress and tennis star Serena Williams's yelling profanities at a line official during the U.S. Open.

“Using harsh words like ‘stupid,’ ‘ignorant,’ and ‘fool,’ only inflame a situation and will less likely lead to a positive resolution,” she explains, in her reasoning for avoiding inflammatory words.

“These recent outbreaks of uncivil behavior are becoming increasingly more common in our world and everyday experiences,” Pachter adds. “It’s time for people to fight back, politely of course, and assert that being uncivil to one another is not the way we want public figures or ourselves to behave.”

Barbara Pachter is the author of several books, including the latest, The Power of Positive Confrontation. She leads more than 100 seminars a year at such organizations as Microsoft, Chrysler and Cisco Systems. A free copy of her e-newsletter can be obtained at her company’s Web site, Her blog can be viewed at

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