Hacker News Re-Imagined

How to professionally say

  • 979 points
  • 2 months ago

  • @ghostfoxgod
  • Created a post

How to professionally say


@illuminati1911 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

This is very helpful. Thank you so much.

Some of them might require slight changes depending on the context to not sound too passive aggressive.

Reply


@daenz 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

These are great, but a few still have some "sting" on them that would set off people who are very attuned to language.

Reply


@hashtag-til 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Are we confident that this is the best solution or are we still exploring alternatives?

Reply


@vessenes 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Hey Akash,

I like the idea of giving people some help expressing themselves at work. You might be interested to learn about the Power Distance Index, and the body of work on PDI and work culture.

You’ll see if you read the comments here that some people are like “the alternatives are bullshit corporate speak and infuriate me”, and some are like “yes, at last, a way to help people be more polite / better communicators”. There’s a smattering of “this is passive aggressive” thrown in.

One of the broad pitches PDI at work types make is that the lower the PDI, the more direct communications are preferred; the higher, the more ‘diplomatic’ the communications are preferred. My vibe on your list is that it’s just a tad more diplomatic than Silicon Valley wants to be, hence the slight negative ‘passive aggressive’ reactions.

Some of the lowest PDI countries in the world are Israel, and many Northern European countries, and it fits my experience that in those places additional respect is given for bluntness - as Jan Maas in Ted Lasso says “I’m not rude, I’m Dutch.” As a broad stereotype using the alternate wordings you give would be a sign you are not someone to be respected in that environment.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia’s PDI is high, and I would bet that some of your alternate list there would still be much too rude; just a guess, I haven’t worked in Saudi.

Anyway, thanks again for this; if you stay interested, you might consider reworking this into different ‘cultural norms’ lists to help people acclimate / go both ways; at that point, I think it would be a very broadly useful resource.

Reply


@yellowstuff 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Good idea, but a lot of these feel like saying the professional way of telling someone to eat shit and die is “consume fecal matter and perish in an inferno”.

Reply


@wanderingmind 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

A great way to improve mental health and productivity is for someone to optimize a NLP model that can convert our emails and messages from what we actually feel to professional speech.

Reply


@titzer 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Having been on the receiving end of "I'm not sure we really understand what is going on here" more than a few times, from specific people, I was able to decode this eventually. I'm still not sure how I feel about it, but it definitely was less jarring to hear those words instead of "you don't know what you are talking about."

Reply


@librish 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I don't think I agree with most of these. The professional way to say "I told you so" is to not say it. If there are specific action items you can bring them up in a post mortem without pointing fingers.

If you feel like you genuinely need to let people know that something wasn't your fault (which would be a bit of an organizational red flag) that's an action item for you to make sure your interjections are more visible next time.

Reply


@xwdv 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Not only are these very passive aggressive, some of them leave you with action items that I have no desire to carry out.

If I say something isn’t my job, that’s the end of it, you hear me? I will certainly NOT be happy to waste my time helping you find someone else who can do it. Do your job.

Reply


@traceroute66 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I'm sorry but all these are pointless waffle that don't serve any purpose or achieve the goal.

For example...

A whole bunch of them are just a longer version of making yourself sound like an utter twat, e.g. "I told you so" vs "As per my prediction, this outcome does not come as a surprise." .... to the listener both equal "you're a twat".

Then a whole bunch of others just open scope for further problems, e.g. "that meeting sounds like a waste of time" -> "waffle...I would be happy to read the minutes" ..... cue colleague coming back to you asking why you have not read the minutes / for your opinion on the minutes.

Finally, as others have commented, it's all very Americanised and would likely not work in "no BS" cultures elsewhere in the world.

Reply


@punkspider 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

This will be very useful when using with GPT-3. Thanks so much!

Some examples generated using the site title and tagline in the beginning of the prompt, confidence 0, and the first 3 samples. Some are misses, but it can be tweaked to come in very useful when I don't know how to provide constructive criticism or feedback.

    There is a fly in my soup: I’m afraid there is something in this food that shouldn’t be here.
    Fuck you: I strongly disagree with your approach/decision.
    You make me cringe: Your delivery makes me feel uncomfortable.
    I never loved you: Our relationship was purely professional.
    I am so tired of all your fucking meetings: I’m not able to attend all the meetings you’re scheduling. Can we review which ones I can be of most help with?
    I'm fed up with all these dumb "coaching" courses: I’ve taken a number of courses on this topic and I’m not convinced that this is the most effective use of my time.
    I'd like to end our contract as you have been late for the deadline twice and haven't even given me a heads up: I regret to inform you that I will be terminating our contract as of today.

Reply


@gotamas 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I think the two versions here should say rude vs. passive aggressive. I don't see any professional or collegial in most of the answers. The only difference is that passive aggressive versions are harder to understand and see through

Reply


@aghilmort 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

turn these into a browser extension

Reply


@debarshri 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

When I start reading the phrases and their corresponding responses. It gives me jitters because I have been in an org that used very similar language and I often connect that language to a toxic work environment and office politics.

I have worked in netherlands for dutch orgs, I love the fact that communication is direct, people communicate directly. You don't have read between the lines, if something has to be done, it said as it. There is BS in an org. There is toxic politics per say.

It could be just be me but I think an org could work efficiently if there was no reading between the lines and communication was to the point.

Reply


@geocrasher 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I find that the majority of these suggestions take a needlessly adversarial approach. I lack the energy to write more right now, but overall a collaborative approach should be taken. Here's my version of the first dozen or so:

- You are overcomplicating this

    Wow, You've put a lot of thought into this- that's great! I think we can probably simplify it a bit though. What do you think?
- That meeting sounds like a waste of my time

    Is attendance mandatory? I'm not sure what I'll be able to bring to the table on this one.
- I told you so

    (Silence is golden)
- That sounds like a horrible idea

   That would probably work if $thing were true, but in this case I don't think it'll apply. What do you think?
Also this is closely related to "That won't work!" which I wrote about on my blog some time back: https://meetryanflowers.com/that-wont-work/

- I already told you this

   Oh, I think this is something we already covered. Did you you remember when we talked about $this?
- Can you answer all of the question I asked and not just pick and choose one?

   OK, so for $question, you're saying $this. What do you think about $otherquestion(s)?
- Did you even read my email?

   Oh, I think I actually covered this in the email I sent this morning - is $emailsubject not what you're referring to?
- Stop bothering me

   I really wish I had a better answer right now, but I simply don't. Feel free to check with me later today, but as soon as I hear back on this I'll definitely keep you in the loop.
- Do your job!

   Oh, I thought you were the right person to go to for this. Who should I be talking to instead?
- That's not my job

   Oh, I don't know the answer to that, I usually don't deal with $thing. Have you talked to so-and-so? Here lets hop on a call with them and we'll get it figured out together.
- Stop assigning me so many tasks if you want any of them to get done

   I'll be glad to do it, thanks. I do need to know if you want this done before or after $things though, since those are still in progress.

Reply


@ghostfoxgod 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Hello everyone. Firstly I want to thank everyone for sharing their thoughts and suggestions here. The intent of the project is not to make you respond with passive aggressive tone but to show you some alternatives of "how you might feel like saying sometimes" over "how you can reframe it a bit better (in some cases atleast)"

I have gathered the data from a content creator on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/loewhaley/) and yes of course the credits are mentioned everywhere about this.

Based on the responses here it seems like what I started as fun activity can be something more than I thought.

I'll be looking into the possibilities of improving the content to make it less satire and more appropriate for most of the people out there.

Since it's an open sourced project (https://github.com/AkashRajpurohit/howtoprofessionallysay), you can share your feedbacks and idea improvements there.

At ending note, I would just like to say to anyone who feels this is really good and I'm going to use this word by word, please don't, take this as a grain of salt and not seriously (atleast at this point of time till I better structure the content) and anyone who feels negative about this, I'm sorry you feel that way but don't take this very seriously.

Reply


@mkl95 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

> Can you answer all of the questions I asked and not just pick and choose one

That hit close to home.

Reply


@proc0 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Are we confident that this is the best solution or are we still exploring alternatives?

Reply


@karaterobot 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

One that I don't see on the list, which I am constantly looking for a way to politely say, is: "I don't think you were paying attention to what I said just now. It's possible that I wasn't clear enough, but if that's so, you should ask me questions rather than ignoring me. What I'm hearing from you now is exactly what someone would say if they had spent all of my previous statement waiting to talk instead of listening."

How do I say this?

Reply


@chasing 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Speak like an empathic human being, not like an asshole, not like a robot.

Reply


@shimonabi 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

If you were taught English as a second language in school like me, this is both helpful and hilarious:

https://www.worldaccent.com/blog/2011/05/british-translation...

Reply


@Animats 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Probably coming soon to Grammarly and Google Docs.

There should be a reverse version in reader programs: the bullshit remover.

Reply


@musesum 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Much of conflict is avoided when switching from 2nd person to 1st person point of view:

1) you're not delivering on time

2) I see a delay in progress

for 1), the speaker interjects an implicit judgment which the receiver has to defend against or quietly accept under duress.

for 2), the topic shifts from the receiver to the work; both parties are on the same team working towards the same goal.

Reply


@rapjr9 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

>"Stop assigning me so many tasks if you want any of them to get done"

>"As my workload is quite heavy, can you help me understand what I should reprioritize to accommodate this new task?"

I've used this one a lot and it helped quite a bit. Eventually the boss saw it as obstructive to his demands and started saying "it's all top priority". So I just arranged my priorities as I saw fit based on what I observed his own priorities to be, and it mostly worked out fine. When he'd ask me about all the other tasks he'd assigned, after I reported on what I'd accomplished at the weekly meeting, I'd say "I haven't had time to work on that". It's what he always said to everyone, that he was "so strapped for time, had so many meetings on his schedule" so how could he not accept it? Or he'd say "this other stuff is important, you need to work on it", I'd say "ok, I'll put off THE IMPORTANT THING for a day to do that", and he'd back off. In essence there is only so much time, and when you get to the details of scheduling what you are going to work on, it becomes extremely obvious how long things take to do. Maybe someone more brilliant could do it faster than you, but it will take a year to bring them in and get them up to speed, and they will cost more. If your boss refuses to recognize that and demands more, just do what you can, and reserve some inviolable time for yourself. It's basically a management failure and has nothing to do with you, let them fail. You know your value, you are accomplishing the most important of the work.

Oh, and when the boss stops wanting to prioritize, start looking for a better place to work.

Reply


@jasode 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

A meta observation about the replies:

- Group 1 : These alternatives suggestions are great!

- Group 2 : These alternatives sound like corporate-drone-speak that are passive-aggressive and condescending.

The differences in perception seems like a unintended Rorschach Test. The differing interpretations looks like a worthy candidate for somebody's PhD psych research paper.

Conclusion: Projecting an intended tone to a universal audience is hard. Possibly unresolvable.

Reply


@AlbertCory 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

"Professionally" might be rephrased as "approved use of corporate speak." Anytime anyone uses the words "unable", "reach out", "elaborate", "expertise" or "input" you know they're bucking for promotion, as they say in the military.

You need to translate another phrase: "You are sucking up."

Reply


@todd3834 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

These all seem highly passive aggressive in this context. So much so that it is actually entertaining to read.

Reply


@bspear 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

If only we could say how we truly felt

Reply


@ransom1538 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Ok. Can someone please make a firefox plugin so these auto replace for me? [1 github start will be paid]

Reply


@867-5309 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

how to split professionally an infinitive

Reply


@sn41 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

What a bunch of threatening gobbledygook. I'd be truly frightened if this was the tone of all the emails I get from my boss.

Reply


@twayt 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Add comments so people can discuss each one

Reply


@GnomeSaiyan 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Y'all are getting worked up over nothing. All these sayings were taken directly off of a TikToker's/Instagrammer's posts. They're all basically just light humor.

Reply


@eligro91 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I prefer to use Reverso Context.

The way I'm using it is that I'm putting some words from a sentence I want to say, and it will show me how others have used those words. then I'm looking for the common use of those words and building my own sentence.

Reply


@civilized 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

This version of "professionalism" has the stereotypical West Coast problem: the message it claims to be sending gets not only lost in translation, but distorted into something more superficially inoffensive, but underneath that, more opaque and manipulative. It encourages indirection and avoidance rather than respectful candor.

Let's start with the first example. The polite way to say "you are overcomplicating this" is "I think this could be simpler". Not "let's concentrate on initial scope", which isn't remotely the same thing in general. The latter is less generally applicable (how do we know there was an initial scope?), less specific (why stick to initial scope?), and more prescriptive ("let's do this" instead of "I listened to your idea and this is what I think of it").

Now, being less specific and more prescriptive may be some people's idea of effective self-interested corporate behavior, since it works to minimize your vulnerabilities and maximize the obligations of others. But I think communication is more meaningful, effective, and respectful if you explain how you evaluate others' ideas (which implies you at least gave them the respect of listening) before just telling them what to do.

They're not all bad though! I definitely think "that's a horrible idea" is productively replaced with some version of "I have these concerns" or "I think there may be better alternatives". It's generally good to avoid terms that communicate nothing but negative affect and instead communicate whatever ideas that prompted the negative affect.

EDIT: another comment mentions Power-Distance Index, which is part of a broader cultural dimensions theory. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hofstede%27s_cultural_dimens...

Apparently I have a very strong preference for low PDI culture, as do most of you. But it's good to be aware that that's not universal and our style may require adaptation for success with diverse audiences.

Reply


@gotaquestion 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Bookmarked!

Also, there is a long form of this called "Difficult Conversations", which is a really good book for handling all sorts of complicated issues, both at work and at home. Strongly recommended.

Reply


@lvass 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

This is disgusting. I wouldn't want to work with people offended by simple and direct speech, and even less if they'd be fine with a sugarcoated version like this instead. I feel sorry for anyone who has to talk like this, if I were to create a company, it'd never reach this point.

Reply


@ComradePhil 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Seems like they are stolen from TikTok channel @loewhaley... or the other way around.

Reply


@neonsunset 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Hahah I like how many of these phrases unlike their direct counterparts appear even more passive aggressive and insulting if you are used to corpspeak.

Reply


@harrisonjackson 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I hope that junior engineers/employees take all of these with a grain of salt. You can't skip meetings because you won't add to them. Part of your job is to observe and learn.

Reply


@jaequery 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

This is great

Reply


@mrfusion 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Now we need one for spouses … (not joking)

Reply


@douglee650 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

As ←. Per ↑. My →. Previous ↓. Email →.

Reply


@dj_mc_merlin 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Huh? I thought this was a satire/joke website. The amount of people who thank the author for help is.. worrying. This is how we jokingly communicate at work, or in commit messages.

Reply


@moralestapia 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

>I told you so

>As per my prediction, this outcome does not come as a surprise.

Whew ... that sounds quite arrogant and egoistical.

I'd probably just say "you see, I told you so" with a very friendly attitude, almost as a joke, followed by "but it's fine, let's focus on how are we going to proceed now that ...".

Reply


@n4bz0r 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

> I totally forgot about your email

> Thank you for your patience

Gave me a little chuckle :)

I figure this "corp-speak" is supposed to help to deliver the message clearly while milding the confrontation down insensibly. Some of the proposed lines, merely repharsed into a colder, official tone, aren't too great at that. But this one is quite clever!

Reply


@CSDude 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

This is how many people survive and get promoted in a large enterprise. One of the reasons I quit my job.

Reply


@ChangeTheory 1 month

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I don't think you make it sufficiently clear that you've essentially plagiarized this from the Instagramer you link to: https://www.instagram.com/loewhaley

There is no "special thanks". You've copied it word-for-word. I think the only reason you've posted this here is to crowd source more content, rather than do the work yourself.

Reply


@mdb31 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Ah, yes, the same kind of guide that brought us "how to professionally respond to outages"... With classics like "We recognize the incident", "a small subset of customers", "degraded performance" and "the next update (which will be the exact same meaningless drivel as the current 'update') will be in 60 minutes". Don't we just love those? So let's add more of that to the shared vocabulary of IT professionals!

Or... let's just not? In writing, always avoid clichés. Whether it's "do the needful", "by utilizing" or "we did not live up to our customer's expectations", there is one simple rule: if you've seen the exact same sentence or expression before in the exact same context in the last week or so, you should probably avoid it.

And if that makes you unsure what exactly to say, just type what you mean, then get an editor before posting it to your blog or incident report. And if it's time-sensitive, then just ask for forgiveness later, not permission upfront (which is also a cliché but reworded, see what I did there?)

Reply


@mirkodrummer 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Oh cmon seriously? Did we really need a guide? I’m not arguing you shouldnt be professional, rather scared of a future where we all talk like bots with no emotions. Are we so fu**d up?

Reply


@CyanDeparture 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I'm not sure I agree with most of these, it's not the way I'd go about them, but also I don't see what I do in the comments so I'll add my own hopefully unique perspective here. For example with:

"you are overcomplicating this"

I would put it in the 3rd person or include myself in the problem, and I would apologise at the start for saying something negative, so I would say for example:

"Sorry, but I think we're overcomplicating this, what do we think about the following idea..."

I've found that works fantastically because I'm sort of saying I'm wrong or have caused an issue (I haven't) and they're included in my suggested solution (they're not really) so it makes a great way to change peoples minds (if you don't mind pretending you're having a bad idea too and giving them credit for yours).

I apply this to everything and it works great. You get a lot of people taking credit for your good ideas, but I don't mind if it means the solution is better.

Reply


@alliao 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

reminded me of this twitter thread... https://twitter.com/MeanestTA/status/1509936432625897474

took me way too long to find it, how do you guys search whatever it is you've seen on the internet

Reply


@ozzythecat 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Many of these statements come off as being passive aggressive, but to the authors credit, sometimes you don’t have much else to respond back with, or just don’t engage at all, which can cause its own issues.

What made me chuckle a bit is how real these situations were on a daily basis at Amazon, and how I’d write an email or Chime message only to rewrite it and discard it… “hmm, how do I respond without being passive aggressive? How do I keep my mental sanity?”

Reply


@quadcore 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

How to professionally say "I cant do this (technically)"

Reply


@nathias 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I think I heard most of the lines listed used word for word, but is professionalism just translating active agression into passive agression?

Reply


@elilev 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Passive aggressive language is not leadership.

Reply


@Copenjin 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Most of these are just passive aggressive versions of the original, maybe more blunt, comment. The effect on me would be the opposite of what the author expects.

Totally unprofessional, remember that you are usually among adults, not kids. Don't be blunt but don't even use this alternative style. Both will get you fired eventually.

My simple suggestion, when something is wrong, make it about us, don't target the individual and try to propose a plan to fix the issue/situation. That's the way to handle conflict, we work together, let's fix issues.

Reply


@okasaki 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

IMO A lot of the fixed professional ones would still be way too spicy to use in the UK.

Many seem to imply a bad relationship or dissatisfaction with a coworker. I would never [again] talk to a coworker about this. I would either ignore it or talk to my manager.

Reply


@karmakaze 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

  I told you so. ->
  As per my prediction, this outcome does not come as a surprise.
Is "Being mindful of timelines. Let’s concentrate on the initial scope." better than "You're overcomplicating this" to describe the above transformation?

Seriously though, I think these soft phrasings might be useful for talking to non-technical types or more junior devs. For senior+ devs, I prefer plain-speak.

Reply


@tomasreimers 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

In case anyone wants to throw it into GPT-3:

Blunt: You are overcomplicating this

Polite: Being mindful of timelines. Let’s concentrate on the initial scope.

Blunt: That meeting sounds like a waste of my time

Polite: I’m unable to add value to this meeting but I would be happy to review the minutes.

Blunt: I told you so

Polite: As per my prediction, this outcome does not come as a surprise.

Blunt: That sounds like a horrible idea

Polite: Are we confident that this is the best solution or are we still exploring alternatives?

Blunt: I already told you this

Polite: As Indicated prior

Blunt: Can you answer all of the questions I asked and not just pick and choose one

Polite: Are you able to provide some clarity around the other questions previously asked?

Blunt: Did you even read my email?

Polite: Reattaching my email to provide further clarity

I’ll provide an update when I have one

Blunt: Stop bothering me

Polite: You have not heard from me because further information is not available at this time, Once I have an update I’ll be sure to loop you in.

Blunt: I don’t want to talk to you right now!

Polite: I am currently tied up with something but I will connect with you once I am free.

Blunt: Do your job!

Polite: It is my understanding that you are the appropriate person to contact in regards to this. But If there’s is someone better equipped for this let me know.

Blunt: That's not my job

Polite: This falls outside of my responsibilities but I would be happy to connect you with someone who can help.

Blunt: Stop assigning me so many tasks if you want any of them to get done

Polite: As my workload is quite heavy, can you help me understand what I should reprioritize to accommodate this new task?

Blunt: answer my emails

Polite: If there’s a better way to get in contact with you please let me know as I am hoping to have this resolved as soon as possible

Blunt: This is not my problem

Polite: I recommend directing this issue to [Name] as they have the proper expertise to best assist you

Blunt: If you would have read the whole email you’d know the answer to this

Polite: I have included my initial email below which contains all of the details you are looking for.

Blunt: I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about

Polite: Can you help me better understand what exactly is it that you require on my end?

Blunt: Stop micromanaging

Polite: I am confident in my ability to complete this project and will be sure to reach out, If or when I require your input.

Blunt: Please hurry and get this done!

Polite: It is important that we have this completed in order to meet our targeted deadlines which are quickly approaching.

Blunt: Stay in your own lane

Polite: Thank you for your input. I’ll keep that in mind as I move forward with decisions that fall within my responsibilities

Blunt: I’ve told you this multiple times

Polite: There seems to be a disconnect here as this information has already been provided

Blunt: I’m not doing your job for you

Polite: I do not have the capacity to take this on in addition to my own workload but I’m happy to support where it makes sense.

Blunt: We do not need to have a meeting about this.

Polite: Being respectful of everyone's time let's discuss this through email until we have a more defined agenda

Blunt: Did you just take credit for my work?

Polite: It is great to see my ideas being exposed to a wider audience and I would have appreciated the opportunity to have been included in the delivery.

Blunt: Google that your self

Polite: The internet is a great resource for these types of questions and I am available to clarify elements that you are not able to find online.

Blunt: What you are saying does not make sense

Polite: We seem to have a different understanding on this. Can you elaborate further on your thought process here?

Blunt: I am not paid enough to do this

Polite: This falls out of my job description but if the opportunity for a role expansion becomes available I would be happy to discuss reworking my contract to better align with these new responsibilities

Blunt: I totally forgot about your email

Polite: Thank you for your patience

Blunt: I'm going to need a whole lot of more information if you want me to do this

Polite: Please let me know when further details become available as I require more information to successfully complete this task

Blunt: Stop calling me before my workday even starts

Polite: If you need to contact me, please note that my working hours being at 8 am and 6 pm. Communications received prior to this won't be seen.

Blunt: Check your inbox, I already sent this to you!

Polite: I previously sent you an email regarding that but please let me know if something went wrong in transit

Blunt: I couldn't care less

Polite: I will defer to your judgment on this as I am not passionate either way and I trust your expertise.

Blunt: I told you so and now this is your problem

Polite: I did previously note that this was a likely outcome. How do you plan to resolve this?

Blunt: Stop trying to make me do your work!

Polite: I am not able to offer you additional support in completing your workload

Reply


@thenoblesunfish 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Very practically useful (if you insist on saying these things, at all) but should come with some indication of which culture or (global) industry this advice is tuned to. I think these seem like what I would expect as an American (slightly passive aggressive, offering to “help” just as way to put things in someone else’s court), but for example (as per countless memes) if you were Dutch you might be expected to be more direct, if British even less direct.

Reply


@bushnugget 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I enjoyed this, mostly because I refuse to play the corporate-speak games. I have grown weary of the overuse of diluted buzzwords, undefined acronyms, and email posturing to signal importance. As a sysadmin, I don't care about how important you SAY your application is. If your team didn't pay for the corresponding SLA, too bad. If your team didn't follow the lead time policy for changes to production hosts, too bad. If your team doesn't know who else to reach out to, that doesn't make me your "yellow pages".

This is just trying to shove planning/work that isn't mine down my throat with corporate action words. I've taken to using a "blunt-ish" approach. It may not be the best for my career, but at least I don't feel like a passive drone being railroaded.

Example:

THEM: We really need this config changed on our prod servers for our app deployment to be successful. We have raised CHG1234 for this to be done this afternoon. Please do the needful on priority.

ME: Production changes require a 2 week lead time, you need to resubmit this change in accordance with this policy. <link-to-policy>

THEM: How can we escalate? We cannot wait 2 weeks.

ME: ...

I just don't respond any further. I give them the exact reason for the "no" and don't engage with the rest of their badgering. EVERYTHING else they will respond with is an attempt to manipulate me into violating policy for their benefit, with no credit for me saving the day, yet all of the risk if I don't.

Nope.

Reply


@cde-v 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

AKA How to tread lightly around the irrelevant dinosaurs in your office.

Reply


@doctorhandshake 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

At the risk of sounding naive, do people really use this kind of language with one another? To my ears, it doesn’t sound professional, it sounds openly passive-aggressive.

Reply


@amelius 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Sounds a lot like the suggestions that are already in GMail.

Reply


@uncomputation 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Almost none of these are "professional" or the sort of corporate double speak the author wants to convey. In fact, I find a lot of the "alternatives" more passive aggressive and rude than the original intentions! Instead of "stop bothering me" being:

    You have not heard from me because further information is not available at this time, Once I have an update I’ll be sure to loop you in
It should be something like "Let's sync up later" or "I will ping you once I have an update." Way less hostile.

Reply


@soheil 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

For this reason whenever someone speaks professionally instead of just saying the thing directly not only they're saying the original thing it's meant to be (ie. I don't have time for you, I told you so, that's a horrible idea...), but they're also adding an element of plausible deniability, which makes it pretty cowardly.

When I see managers speak like this I know the rot of bureaucracy has plagued the company culture and is time to find a smaller/less bs-type company.

It'd be a fun project to create a tool to "auto-correct" these phrases back to their original meaning so everyone knows what's being communicated. Maybe a Gmail Chrome extension?

Reply


@polskibus 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

This site needs a British equivalent.

Reply


@marcodiego 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I once had to bring the news that about half a team would lose their jobs. So, in Brazil we have what is called "aviso prévio"; by our rules, your employer must put you under "aviso prévio" (advance notice) for a time before deciding to fire you. Because of some bureaucracy, the whole team was under advance notice but now I just got the news of who was to be fired and I had to give the team such news. It was a very cohesive, young, talented team and everybody behaved like a family. Definitely not an easy task.

I wanted to say:

  - I'm not guilty of this, I didn't chose who.

  - Half of the team will be fired.

  - It is all right if you want to point a finger.

  - They're doing a bad thing because they don't know how talented you are.
Since I had to do it in a meeting which also included the bosses, this is how I said it:

  - I don't know the criteria used, but it is not my job to contest or specify it. Whoever did it, I'm sure had a though task doing so.

  - About 50% of the team was chosen to continue under "advance notice".

  - Last meeting, everybody got together to comment on the situation and I'm sure it will happen again because it is just unavoidable.

  - Talking for myself, independent of who was chosen, I can say that there is absolutely no doubt about your skills.

Reply


@sqs 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

This is a great resource that'll be useful to many people. To the author, thank you for taking the time to write these down and put them online. It would be a fascinating sociological/psychological research project to go one level deeper and give a few variants of each response, noting the implications and nuanced differences in the connotation of each.

For example, for "answer my emails", the author suggests: "If there’s a better way to get in contact with you please let me know as I am hoping to have this resolved as soon as possible". This is a totally valid and common way to say that. However, taken literally, it's silly! The person would need to read this email in order to know to suggest a different way to get in contact with the sender. Who's going to reply and say (basically) "I got your email, but please contact me with the same inquiry on (different contact method)"?

Another way to rephrase "answer my emails" would be to say "Just checking: did this email get flagged by your spam filter?" It's similarly facially silly: if it was flagged as spam, then this followup would likely also be flagged as spam, so the recipient wouldn't see it. But it signals to the recipient that you don't/won't consider their slow reply to be their fault, which could increase your likelihood of getting a reply. And other things (eg the recipient doesn't want to be seen as having a dumb spam filter, short 1-question emails get the highest response rate, the recipient now has an opportunity to immediately help clear up a simple question--was the email flagged as spam--which is an immediate reward for them, etc.).

Ah, the infinite complexity of human communication.

Reply


@sandruso 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Internally I don’t want message to be sugar coated. Criticize my performance with whatever language, be direct and make sure personal boundaries are not crossed. In other words, make it clear that everybody focus on performance not the person. A question is whether this is scalable anybody with some experience?

Edit: typo

Reply


@ryandrake 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

George Carlin had a great bit[1] about our continuous need to soften our language with euphemisms. That, combined with a kind of forced optimism: needing to hide all negativity inside robotic passive aggression, is what communication has become in a lot of corporations. I don't imagine anyone actually likes having to do it, but we all seem to adopt these speech patterns eventually.

Every time your boss tells you, "Hey, can you tone it down next time? Fred told me he was very offended by your asking him to do his job!"-- you're being asked to participate in the game.

1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuEQixrBKCc

Reply


@cr1pablo 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

So useful for me as non-native English speaker. Sometimes it's difficult to know how rude your affirmations sound

Reply


@ramesh31 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I've gotten into a habit over the years of exclusively using "We" in reference to anything code related, even if it's something I wrote entirely myself. The diffusion of "we" versus "I" allows you talk about things much more objectively and openly. And it really helps to maintain a blameless culture. This also extends to "You", so I'd never tell a junior "You did this poorly, you should fix this". It's always "We should find a better solution, what are your suggestions?".

Reply


@amelius 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Of course, the recipient would need an inverse translation table to see the original intent.

Reply


@fargle 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Wrapping everything in a euphemism does not make it more professional.

Finding a way to speak clearly and truthfully without being outright rude, as appropriate for the culture and situation, is important. Speaking up when necessary is important. But it's a lot more nuanced than phrase substitution.

Some of these are pretty good. Some would make you sound extremely passive-aggressive. Some of them imply your own attitude problem ("I told you so...").

A lot are most professionally handled by saying nothing at all. While it is important to speak up truthfully when there would be some positive outcome for you or me or your team, some of these fall into a category where the best outcome is to leave it. It's either irrelevant, unhelpful, or a self-solving dilemma ;-)

Pretend Nice ! => Professional - you're fooling no one

Reply


@efitz 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

A couple of the suggested answers are in passive voice. IMO in addition to being poor stylistically in business communications, passive voice conveys apathy and disclaims responsibility. In some of these cases that may be the intent but as other examples show there are ways to do that without passive voice.

Reply


@ghostfoxgod 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

weekend project, open sourced at https://github.com/AkashRajpurohit/howtoprofessionallysay feel free to add/update the data.

Reply


@webkike 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

If someone said to me “As per my prediction, this outcome does not come as a surprise” I would not like them very much

Reply


@NovemberWhiskey 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Alternative title: "how to come across as a passive-aggressive asshole"

Reply


@voldacar 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

These remind me of Orwell's "Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account."

Reply


@delaaxe 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Relevant "corporate speak" https://youtu.be/4ab2ZeZ-krY

Reply


@amznbyebyebye 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Some of these are quite confrontational and still come across as unprofessional. This has a very boomer feel to it. I think Gen Z will just say the what they want instead of applying a professional filter.

Reply


@ccbccccbbcccbb 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I am afraid to hurt your feelings with incautious wording, so you might want to make your educated guess as to what I really meant to communicate to you.

Reply


@aspaviento 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I think there's no need to overcomplicate those answers. You can be direct with your message without coming as aggressive. This is basic conflict management: don't focus on the person, focus on the problem.

Examples:

You are overcomplicating this

this is unnecessarily complex.

That meeting sounds like a waste of my time

if I'm not necessary for this meeting, I would rather do X

I told you so

this is what we talked that could happen, remember?

Reply


@jimkleiber 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I've been thinking to start a podcast about how to improve the quality of our communication, especially in different cultural contexts.

I'm wondering, would any of you want to listen to a podcast where someone helps people change how they speak, almost like a Dr. Phil meets Marshall Rosenberg (nonviolent communication guy)?

Reply


@curious_cat_163 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Some of the suggested phrasing changes the meaning of the original.

Also, besides the alternatives requiring cultural sensitivity (as some commentators have argued), I think, there is just a little bit more sensitivity required to your receiver’s personality and appetite for bluntness and their role relative to you.

Reply


@jmyeet 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

These tend to be better than the alternative but let me warn you: people know what you actually mean and it'll be treated almost as negatively over time.

I didn't look at all of these but this one stuck out:

> I told you so

> As per my prediction, this outcome does not come as a surprise.

Don't say this. It's just as bad and really negative. It's not even passive aggressive. It's just aggressive.

Reply


@krono 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

These lines are Dutch directness' kryptonite!

The website could come in handy if I ever need to translate some of these theatrics back to human speech. The ability to switch the variants around would be a nice to have ;)

Edit: removed unintentional rudeness, throwing OP a bone

Reply


@BasDirks 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Well written but too hostile.

Reply


@hemmert 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Very nice! It reminds me of Frank Rausch‘s and Timm Kekeritz‘ beautiful chart:

https://twitter.com/frankrausch/status/966252757815570432

Reply


@darthrupert 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I realize there’s a lot of cultural differences at play here. Still, some of these professionalisms are blatant lying in my opinion and should be discouraged. E.g. ”I totally forgot your email” vs ”thank you for your patience”.

Owning your mistakes is what pros do and deflecting blame is not.

Reply


@tpoacher 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

All the 'translations' seem to hinge on the assumption that the recipient does not have malicious motives, but rather, they seem to be doing something bad that you'd like them to stop doing, and are trying to find the best language for it.

This is a massive assumption.

Reply


@frobozz 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

> stop calling me before my workday even starts

In what circumstances would you use this phrase?

If they are calling you out of hours, ignore it. They'll eventually get the message.

Reply


@ergocoder 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Most of these are more like "how to create arch enemy at work"

Every time you say those versions of "I told you so", you create one extra arch enemy

Reply


@throwaway98797 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

the intent behind this project is great

the hard part is how to not come off passive aggressive

many (all?) of the places i worked at, the professional versions suggested would get a negative reaction

ultimately, that’s not this tools fault

humans hate to be asked to do anything ever

Reply


@dssagar93 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

This should be available as an autocorrect on Slack and Terms. :p

Reply


@ianai 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

“This falls out of my job description but if the opportunity for a role expansion becomes available I would be happy to discuss reworking my contract to better align with these new responsibilities”

I see you’ve chosen to play with fire.

Reply


@chrisseaton 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

All of these are super passive-aggressive.

Reply


@elcapitan 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I would think of this as kind of a translation table between one communication culture and another, which might come in handy. I'm used to work with people from different cultures in a team and in my head just transpose whatever they say based on their culture.

If an American tells me "Are we confident that this is the best solution or are we still exploring alternatives?" then I'm automatically translating it to "this is complete shit". When someone from Eastern Europe tells me "this is complete shit", I translate it into "hm this looks weird, care to explain?". Plus minus individual adjustments based on my experience with that person.

But there's one thing I never do, and that is taking this kind of communication literally, and therefore I don't really care about flowery language, passive-aggressive clichees, or maybe a little negativity on the other side of the spectrum.

Reply


@williadc 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

In my last performance review, the primary feedback is that I'm too blunt in emails, so I've bookmarked this site. Thanks for creating this.

Reply


@kevmo314 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

All the other comments here seem to be criticizing the OP whereas I thought this site was pretty funny.

That's a professional way to say: I'm pretty sure this site is satire.

Just look at the source Instagram, it's meant to be funny/relatable. Not actual advice. https://www.instagram.com/loewhaley/

Reply


@readme 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I think this dictionary works backwards, but shouldn't be used forwards. If you had trouble understanding the passive aggressive BS of a coworker, this should come in handy.

Reply


@rufius 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Or just say what you mean within cultural norms. People know when they're being bullshitted with nice sounding boiler plate in my experience.

A good rule to follow is to prefer being Kind rather than Nice. Kind is being blunt and honest. Nice is saying things nicely but not being clear on commitments (see: ruinous empathy).

Reply


@grensley 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

If someone says the original, I'd assume they're impolite but good at their job,

If someone says the "corrected" version, I'd assume they're impolite, but bad at their job.

Reply


@lazyant 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I don't know if this is satire or not but rather than "professional" this is passive-aggressive wording.

Reply


@jmbwell 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I hope this is a joke. This sort of corporate garbage language is a scourge.

No need to be rude, no need to fill the space with pseudo-professional gibberish. Just speak plainly.

Reply


@Skunkleton 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Are we confident that this is the best solution or are we still exploring alternatives?

Reply


@TobyTheDog123 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I still wouldn't use quite a few of these:

-

> As per my prediction, this outcome does not come as a surprise.

Just don't say this -- maybe an "I can't say I'm surprised" if it's an informal setting within peers.

-

> As Indicated prior

Also just skip this, maybe a "Yeah, [copy/paste the relevant line from the initial email]"

-

> You have not heard from me because further information is not available at this time, Once I have an update I’ll be sure to loop you in.

"Unfortunately, I don't have any more updates, but once I do I’ll be sure to loop you in."

-

> It is my understanding that you are the appropriate person to contact in regards to this. But If there’s is someone better equipped for this let me know.

I have to do things like this a lot - my go-to is "According to XYZ you're the best person to talk to about this, but if there's someone else I should reach out to please let me know"

-

> I have included my initial email below which contains all of the details you are looking for.

Just copy/paste the relevant portions from the initial email.

-

> I am confident in my ability to complete this project and will be sure to reach out, If or when I require your input.

"Got it - I'll reach out if I have any more questions and I'll keep you in the loop."

-

> Thank you for your input. I’ll keep that in mind as I move forward with decisions that fall within my responsibilities

"Thanks for your feedback, I'll keep it in mind. [Add a question about what they wrote so you seem actually invested in their ideas]"

-

> There seems to be a disconnect here as this information has already been provided

Just copy/paste the relevant portions from the initial email.

-

> Being respectful of everyone's time let's discuss this through email until we have a more defined agenda

This one is more benign but I think it implies the other person isn't being respectful of everyone's time. "I think it'd be beneficial to keep this to email until we have a more defined agenda"

-

> It is great to see my ideas being exposed to a wider audience and I would have appreciated the opportunity to have been included in the delivery.

I've never had to deal with a problem like this, but I don't think this solves much. I don't have an alternative for it but this seems like an issue that wouldn't benefit from minor passive-aggression.

-

> The internet is a great resource for these types of questions and I am available to clarify elements that you are not able to find online.

"I'd be happy to hop on a Zoom call to help you out." -- Don't be the LMGTFY guy.

-

> This falls out of my job description but if the opportunity for a role expansion becomes available I would be happy to discuss reworking my contract to better align with these new responsibilities

These seem to be getting more passive aggressive as I scroll, heh. "I don't have the bandwidth or ability to do something like that, but XYZ may be of better service in this department"

-

> Please let me know when further details become available as I require more information to successfully complete this task

Specify what things you need to complete the task.

-

> If you need to contact me, please note that my working hours being at 8 am and 6 pm. Communications received prior to this won't be seen.

Just don't reply. Mute your phone?

-

> I did previously note that this was a likely outcome. How do you plan to resolve this?

"What's the plan to resolve this?"

-

> I am not able to offer you additional support in completing your workload

"Unfortunately I don't have the bandwidth to help out on that. I'd reach out to [my manager] to see if we can adjust our goals to support you with it"

Reply


@SergeAx 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

Background: I am a software engineer and engineering manager born in Russia. I am 46, so my reports are usually 10-20 years younger. To keep their initiative and creativity high I am keeping my tone a tad softer, for my age and authority often switch people to "yes, boss" mode.

I am on a new job and out of Russia now, so most of communication is in English. My manager pointed out to me, that my softness may sometimes be interpreted as a passive aggression. Construction like "let's think this through again together" means proposing help in Russian, but can be perceived as " you didn't think it through by yourself, so I will spend my time to show you how it should be done properly".

The problem deepens when we use same words with Americans, Brits and non-native speakers. Non-natives take words at face value most of the time, so it is easiest part. Americans has hundreds of nuance because they speak the language all their life and their cultural background chips in all the time. Brits has passive aggression built in their culture, thus "English humor" and branded sarcasm.

There are two easy solutions for the problem. First - more face time even in remote-first team. People just getting to know each other and interpolate personal traits to written communication. Second - be more specific, clearly communicate intentions and speak as myself: "I feel that there can be better solution, so let's combine our expertise and brainstorm the problem once again".

Reply


@oliv__ 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

This is the kind of veiled talk that I can't stand. I'm left trying to decipher whether the person is serious or what they mean exactly.

If my idea sucks, just tell me so and we can talk about why, don't beat around the bush with ambiguous politically correct words.

Reply


@bern4444 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

I've been working on removing blame or attribution from phrases both in work and in social settings.

Some examples are:

"Oh you did this incorrectly" --> "This was incorrectly done"

"Why did you make this decision" --> "How was this decision made"

My thinking is, once you remove the attribution or the linking of identity to action, the other person doesn't hear this as a criticism of them or their skill, but rather on the issue or end result.

My hope is this makes them less prone to be defensive in the discussion and hopefully achieve a more productive end result while minimizing negative reactions.

As other comments point out, a lot of the replacements in the article are corporate ways to say fuck off. I think these responses are generally rude and make me less interested in having a working relationship with the sender.

Reply


@gavinray 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

This reads like robot-ey enterprise speak.

No human being speaks to someone else like this in a normal situation. Just say what you mean and stop dancing around silly social games like this.

Reply


@VirgilShelton 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

This is awesome! Bookmarked!

Reply


@motohagiography 2 months

Replying to @ghostfoxgod 🎙

The essence of these is how you set boundaries for yourself, while a) not threatening the percieved power of the person you are speaking to, and b) expressing needs in terms of appealing to some shared principle of professionalism.

The challenge with flat organizations is they reward bullying because they lack recourse to principle and positional authority. This communication style is necessary for navigating them, and it's how most educated people in orgs communicate these days, as they higher you go up the org chart, the higher the percentage of your time is spent essentially just navigating power.

While I see people reacting to the passive aggression in these phrases, that's literally how managers communicate. Bureaucracy is passive aggressive warfare and a power struggle where people try to subordinate and make others accountable to them.

Sometimes someone is only asking you for something because they want to set you up as a blocker for their project to both get more time and blame it on you, or you are being added to something because the person who failed at it needs to add stakeholders to diffuse accountability for the failure - bureaucracies are systems of alien incentives, and the people in them must often operate according to objectively insane rules. If you want to stop this stuff, learn to lead and make sure your org doesn't default to this, or start your own company, and make a place that doesn't run like this.

When I've seen leaders mystified at how their orgs got like this, it was because when they asked everyone to find ways to work together without the toxic culture, they didn't take ownership and set the example, and everyone just interpreted it as, "hide how you are doing this."

Reply


About Us

site design / logo © 2022 Box Piper