Toxic Culture: Eraser Phrases Can’t Eliminate What Came Before or After

By Karetta Hubbard, Lynne Revo-Cohen, Gwen Crider, and Dr. Chris Kilmartin. 

Dr. Kilmartin provided the powerful phrases in this week’s article. The team filled in the rest …..

“An eraser phrase is a few words placed at the beginning, or end, of a sentence that allows the speaker to abdicate responsibility for offensive and/or prejudicial speech and also reduce the chances that listeners will confront them,” explains Kilmartin.

Fun with eraser phrases! You hear this at the beginning of the sentence. What kinds of things might end the sentence?

At an important meeting that you need to be at the top of your game:

  • Don’t take this the wrong way… 

What’s with the foggy brain today, have a rough night or something?”

But did you mean to wear all black before you discuss positive outcomes for the company’s growth?

  • Would it be sexual harassment if I said…?

Your lookin’ mighty fine in that sweater today…

We need to impress this client, how about you be really nice to him, if you know what I mean     

  • Not to be racist, but…

I dated a black girl/guy once, so I am totally open-minded…

What if I said, “shut up and dribble?” as Laura Ingrahm, talk show host, actually said to LeBron James…

This diversity thing is making it tough to hire the right person…

  • I would never be one to blame the victim, but…

Did you see what she was wearing, give me a break, she was asking for it …

Why’d she meet with him at the hotel?  Talk about mixed signals…

  • With all due respect…

Enough said!  Suggests No Respect.

We’re not done! Eraser phrases can also come at the end of the sentence. This time we’ll write what comes at the end, and you write what you might hear at the beginning.  What have you heard as well?

  • …I don’t mean that in a bad way.

Think about what was said before the other person says this phrase.

Your hair is sooo curly, I shouldn’t be honest? 

Sometimes you are too direct when speaking to others, no wonder people avoid you….

  • …just kidding

You are so dumb around girls, no wonder they won’t go out with you..

  • …no offense

I don’t mean to offend you, but you are dead wrong… 

Has anyone ever told you that you talk too much?

  • …just sayin’

Try not to be so critical, everything is not about you…,

That idea will never work….,

And classics, which can come at either the beginning or the end:

  • Bless her heart!
  • God love ‘em.


At the beginning of the article, Chris asks the reader to have “fun” with these eraser phrases. If you have an answer to one of these or more, please send to us. If you have one to add, please do! Each remark or comment contributes to the conversation, which is the key to understanding and culture change. Please send them to and we will publish them. Thanks!

Top photo: Bigstock

About KHubbard LRevo-Cohen GCrider Chris Kilmartin Maria Morukian (34 Articles)
Since 1984, the founders of NewPoint Strategies, Karetta Hubbard and Lynne Revo-Cohen, have built a strong reputation for delivering extremely effective prevention training in high-risk issues such as sexual harassment/assault. Contributing Author and Lead Consultant, Chris Kilmartin, Ph.D, Emeritus Professor of Psychology from the University of Mary Washington, is an expert in Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention, specifically Male Violence Against Women, Gwen Crider, a diversity and inclusion strategist with over 20 years of leadership experience in non-profit and private sector organizations, and Maria Morukian is an internationally recognized diversity expert