13 Better Ways to Phrase Your Office Conversations

I don’t care if you’re self-employed or if you work in a giant corporation.

You can’t avoid working with other people. People you have to talk to from time to time.

And because the things you say can have unintended consequences, you have to be careful about just what message you REALLY want to send.

I’ve put together this collection, compiled from some business communications experts. These phrases, delivered with authentic intentionality, can help you to communicate better, in a more respectful yet effective way. They can help you with your interpersonal relationships and, in the end, make your work life more fulfilling. 

L19

So the next time you’re talking to a subordinate (or your boss), take a second and think about how you use your words, about the image of yourself that you want to project, and about how you can inspire everyone around you.

Say:

“Who might be able to better help with this?”

Instead of:

“That’s not my job.”

If someone dumps a task on you that shouldn’t be responsible for, keep it positive by saying something along the lines of “This isn’t my area of expertise. Let me find out who can help.”

Whether you’re the new hire or the CEO, it’s absolutely crucial that you give the appearance of being a team player. If you demonstrate leadership and express a willingness to learn new skills, you’ll earn a lot more respect among your peers.

Say

“And”

Instead of:

“But”

Okay, I know this example isn’t very clear, but I’ll give an example. Arggh—I did it myself! I mean I can be clearer, and I’ll demonstrate:

People in the workplace are trained to listen for negative feedback. If someone says two nice things and one mean thing, all they hear is the one mean thing. “But” means the positive thing you just said is completely negated. “You did a good job, but you need to check your figures” is the same as saying “You did not do a good job.” 

Sometimes you can just use “and” instead of “but.” Example: “You did a good job, and once we double-check these figures, the report will be ready to submit.”

Say

“How would it work?”

Instead of:

“That’s not a good idea.”

If your co-workers or employees come to you with an idea, don’t shot it down. Sometimes even the best ideas start out half-baked. Ask questions and let them improve the idea—or realize on their own that it wasn’t that great to begin with.

Say:

“Let’s figure out how we can prevent it from happening again.”

Instead of:

“It wasn’t my fault.”

Trying to blame someone else usually just makes you look bad. Show a willingness to understand the problem and find a way to make it better. Besides, defensiveness won’t get you very far in the workplace. Take the high road and you’ll look like a problem-solver.

Say:

“Let me find out the answer.”

Instead of:

“I don’t know.”

Being honest is important. But saying “I don’t know” is a conversational dead-end. It’s a cop-out, and what it really says to those around you is that you’re lazy and not willing to take the next step. Again, make yourself the person who wants to find a solution. It takes a little more work, but people will take notice and see you as a leader. 

Say:

“I’’ll be candid with you.”

Instead of:

“I’ll be honest with you.”

This one may sound like we’re splitting hairs. But when you’re solving a problem or making an important point, saying “to be honest” implies that you aren’t ALWAYS honest!

Don’t assert your honesty when it should go without saying. A softer word (like “candid” or “transparent”) brings the listener into your inner circle of confidence by saying “I value you enough to say this to you.”

Say:

“I wonder if we should….”

Instead of:

“I think we should….”

When you’re proposing a solution and expecting some push-back, you don’t want to sound like a know-it-all. Saying “I wonder if” means you’re curious about finding the way forward, and you’re inviting everyone else to join you in your search for the best answer.

Say:

“Let me show you some research.”

Instead of:

“Take my word for it.”

When you’re trying to prove your point, use facts and figures. Not emotions and intimidation. Here’s one where doing things the right way means a little more work for you in the end. But showing people that you’ve done your homework shows them that your opinion is backed by facts.

Say:

“Let’s try it your way.”

Instead of:

“If you say so.”

If you’ve been outvoted, move forward with the rest of the team. Show your teammates that you trust their contributions, but remind them that the responsibility for doing things their way lies with them. You need to be a willing partner. There’s no reason to fight someone every step of the way if the team is doing what they suggested instead of what you suggested.

Say:

“Can you give an example where this has worked before?”

Instead of:

“I don’t’ think that will work.”

Sometimes you have to shoot down bad ideas. But that doesn’t mean that you need to be negative about it. Always be receptive and open to new ideas. Ask for stories about how a proposal has been implemented in the past and look for similarities and differences to the problem at hand. Doing this has the added benefit of showing everyone that you’re committed to the team—you’re not just out to rain on someone else’s parade.

Say:

“What happened next?”

Instead of:

“That reminds me of …”

Water-cooler talk is a chance to bond with coworkers you don’t normally chat with. Show them that you’re willing to listen to their stories; you’re not just waiting for your turn to speak and “one-up” them with something cooler, bigger and more entertaining. Trying to dominate the discussion is a sure sign of a poor communicator.

Say:

“How can this be better?”

Instead of:

“Is there anything wrong with this before I send it out?”

This is a great way to start a conversation with that boss (or subordinate) who seems to be always avoiding you. It also lets you show off your work, while demonstrating that you’re looking for ways to improve. Simply saying “Is there anything wrong with this?” suggests that there are usually flaws in your work.

Instead, let it be known that you’re asking the other person to make a valuable contribution (if they have the time or the inclination). It shows you respect their opinion and the collaborative process.

Say:

“I can take care of that for you.”

Instead of:

“Do you need help?”

It is a natural and generous instinct to ask busy people—like your bosses and co-workers—what you can do to help. But “Do you need help?” is a powerless phrase that sounds like “How are you today?” It doesn’t really mean anything. Asking someone who looks busy what you can do to help may seem like the nice thing to do, but a better response is to identify the thing you can do to help without asking. It shows that you’re paying attention, and it gives you a chance to show off what you can do. If you volunteer to take some responsibility off your supervisor’s back, you are making yourself an indispensable part of the team. And you will be noticed for it.

POSTED: 11.03.2015

PREVIOUS POSTHOW I KICKED STRESS TO THE CURB AND MADE MINDFULNESS A BUSINESS PRACTICE

NEXT POST5 WORKDAY STRATEGIES TO RELIEVE STRESS (AND BOOST PRODUCTIVITY)

Leave a Reply

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