If you've worked in an office environment, you've received an email in a thread that says, "Per my last email." You've probably written it as well. It's a helpful phrase that says very politely, "I've already answered this." But it also clearly conveys the true meaning: "Can you read the stupid emails before you ask for information that I've already given you?"

Delia Paunescu brought up her favorite corporate saying:

What followed was pure Twitter office gold. How many of these have you used in your business relationships?

Now, not everyone uses these phrases in a passive-aggressive way. If I'm not going to be a key speaker on a conference call, I put the call on mute to protect you from loud kitties. But, there have been calls that I (confession) didn't have any interest in and was on only because I had to be.

I could make a list of phrases you should use instead, but you know what? I'm okay with this type of language. It's still much more polite in American culture to use these phrases than the direct ones. It allows us to communicate clearly without being directly rude. Awesome.

And, of course, it is cultural. Each office and each region will have its phrases ("well, bless her heart" comes to mind) that can be either polite or downright rude. But, we need to be careful to know our own tone and the appropriate culture. This tweet made me laugh and laugh:

Peter means well, but the Germans are masters of passive-aggressive notes, as are the German-speaking Swiss. I once got a lovely note from a neighbor criticizing my light usage and asking me, "Is it too difficult to walk through the house before you go to bed (and turn all the lights off)?" and "Electricity is not infinitely available. Your son will also need energy in 50 years."

I much prefer the "per my last email" phrase to the above Swiss-German method, but to each his own.

Part of the key to good relationships in the office is a sort of unspoken acknowledgment that we all get annoyed from time to time, and all of us miss things, and all of us make mistakes. If we're all clear on that, then the occasional "I'm a little confused" serves to snap us until reality. And I'm OK with that.