The words you use matter

Good communication skills are essential for fostering strong relationships with team members and being able to motivate people.

Some of the things we say can improve how we are perceived. For example, saying "sorry" too often and for the wrong reasons might hinder how confident you appear. Instead of saying "sorry for the delay," say "thanks for your patience."

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  • Rather than saying "I can't" when you're declining a request, try "here's what I can do for you." This way you'll set a boundary about what you're not willing or able to do and indicating a willingness to find a solution.
  • When you don't know something, instead of shrugging off the inquiry, say, "I'll find out for you."
  • When you start a request with "I hate to bother you..." you've assumed that you're creating a burden. Instead, assume it is not a problem and drop this from your language.

A lot of speakers will say, "We're going to address this issue." However, it doesn't mean you're going to solve the problem or take action. Try words like solve, fight against, or reduce, which communicate action.

Other swaps to consider that are more decisive:

  • "Allowed" can be replaced with enabled or authorised.
  • Instead of "meeting" a goal, try accomplishing or exceeding.
  • "Reacting" can be substituted with responding or solving.

Some people will water down a compliment by saying, "It was nothing..." or "It could be better..."

These responses are dismissive of the person giving the compliment. Instead, thank the individual and add, " I'm glad you like it." When you're thanked, instead of just saying "you're welcome, add "I'm happy I was able to help you." It leaves a positive impression with the person.

If you tell someone to calm down, they will probably not calm down.

Instead, validate the person's feelings and assure them you understand. Saying, "I can see you are upset, and I want to help," will go further to calm them.

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