3 Simple But Powerful Communication Swaps
The specific words you choose have a big impact—as do the words you don’t let pass your lips. At work, you should pay close attention to the terms and phrases you use the most.
Some popular ones may be subtly holding you back. To learn which words to cut (and what to replace them with), read on.
1. Instead of “sorry”…
Say “thank you.”
Most people tend to apologize when an apology isn’t necessary. When they have a question, they’ll say, “Sorry, but I was wondering…” Or when they disagree with the person they’re talking to, they’ll interject, “Sorry, but I actually believe…”
These superfluous “sorries” make you sound less confident. Plus, when you truly do need to apologize for something, you’ll seem less sincere.
Rather than saying “sorry,” say “thank you” instead. For example, if you’re asking a question, you might say, “Thanks for sharing this information with us. I was wondering…” If you have a different opinion, say, “Thanks for explaining. I’d like to offer another view…”
You can also use “thank you” when you’ve made a small mistake or inconvenienced someone slightly—to the degree that you should acknowledge the event, but not fully apologize. To give you an idea, suppose you’re two minutes late. You could say, “Thank you for waiting,” rather than, “Sorry I’m late.”
2. Instead of “I don’t like how you did X”…
Say, “When you did X, I felt Y.”
When you use statements such as, “It was unfair when you…”, “I didn’t appreciate how you…”, and “You shouldn’t have done X…”, you immediately put the other person on the defensive. It can feel like you’re attacking their character, rather than a specific action.
To rectify this, instead share how their action made you feel. Imagine your coworker unexpectedly criticized your idea in a meeting after he’d told you privately he loved it.
Your knee-jerk response might be calling him untrustworthy, but that’s only going to make him angry. A more productive reaction? Saying, “When you critiqued my proposal in that meeting, I felt caught off-guard.”
Because you’re stating what you experienced, not what your colleague did, you can have a more neutral, calm conversation.
3. Instead of “but”…
This swap is harder to pull off than the others on the list, yet it’s highly impactful. Whenever other people hear you say “but,” they expect something negative to come next.
“But” typically means “you’re not going to like what you’re about to hear.”
“And,” on the other hand, doesn’t have this connotation. It will help your audience stay open-minded.
To illustrate, let’s say your team member just suggested redefining your goals for a big project. You think that’s not a good idea, because you’re midway through the project and changing your targets will put you a few weeks behind.
You could say, “But our timeline will get screwed up.”
Instead, say, “That’s a good suggestion, and if we weren’t on such a strict schedule, I’d support it. As it stands, I believe we should stick with our current objectives.”
Although word choice might seem relatively trivial, it’s actually pretty crucial when it comes to developing and maintaining healthy work relationships.
About Signature Consultants, LLC
Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Signature Consultants was established in 1997 with a singular focus: to provide clients and consultants with superior staffing solutions. For the seventh consecutive year, Signature was voted as one of the “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” and is now the 15th largest IT staffing firm in the United States (source: Staffing Industry Analysts). With 26 locations throughout North America, Signature annually deploys thousands of consultants to support, run, and manage their clients’ technology needs. Signature offers IT staffing, consulting, managed solutions, and direct placement services. For more information on the company, please visit www.sigconsult.com.