Words. Not just words

Over the years I noticed a number of phrases we say to each other within the team and the implications they had. It gets down to social awareness, an EQ skill. Sometimes the best of intentions can turn into unwanted results.

The choice of words is as important as the person we address. Subtle implications can make or break a relationship or the desire for future interaction, both in professional and personal set-ups.

Here are some of examples I collected over the years:

“You are too good for that job/position/team”. Instead of an implied criticism, offer support, with some enthusiasm. “Their loss” with the right tone of the voice can work better.

“You always…” or “You never …” said particularly during annual performance reviews. Instead of making people defensive and closed off to your message, simply point out the consequences of their action/lack of action on your time/worload, preferably, everytime it happens. “It seems like you do this often” or “You do this often enough for me to notice” is an opening to finding a solution.

“As I said before” or “As it should have been clear from my previous message/email”. It is clearly a question of how well you communicated initially/previously. So, rephrase, make it more interesting, catchy so that it stays with your receiver. The efficiency of the receiver depends on the efficiency of the source.

“You look tired” vs “Is everything okay?” Instead of assuming, try to ask.

“Good luck” (depending on the tone) carries a doubt in the persons ability. Cast your confidence instead: “You have what it takes” or “You’ll manage, as you’ve done on so many occasions”.

“It’s up to you” or “Whatever” or “Whatever you want” implies indifference and/or desire  to be serviable. Instead, offer a number of options: “I have no strong opinion either way, yet a couple of considerations to bring to the table are …”

“This is a miscommunication” assigns the blame and puts the interlocutor into the defensive mode. Instead say “From our previous communication, my understanding was that …”. It will open the door and help clarify the misunderstanding. Sometimes saying “I am sorry” makes you own your mistake and the respect of others by bringing the talk back into the calm waters.

“I challenge that” is a sure way to put a person into an open fight mode or into a defensive mood. Instead “I would like to bring to the table another perspective” takes the heat out and offers an inclusive and respectful way of dealing with an issue.

Once you become aware of the effects the words have, your communication and relationships will improve. And that is key in any project team.





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