Last year, I had the chance to train for an hour with a small group of Navy SEALs. And while you might think that, within this group of hard-core military professionals, respect would be earned through pushup contests or other feats of strength, it wasn't. In this instance – and in just about every other situation I've encountered – trust and respect have come down to one thing: communication.
In the workplace, respect and trust speak just as loudly as awards and numbers. That's because it isn't achievements that build the relationships we need to succeed – it's the words we use each and every day. So as you build your career, keep the following words and phrases out of your vocabulary. You'll never earn respect or trust with them.
"What I really meant was..."
We all make mistakes, and it's perfectly okay from time to time – as long as they're honest and minor (and that you make an effort to be better in the future). If comments are phrased inappropriately – or if you say them with a spin of deceit – your reputation can be hurt. Refrain from saying things that you'll later have to explain or reword if they're brought to light or if questions start to be asked.
Suppose that you've given a direct report an unclear assignment, and your higher-ups are unhappy with the work produced. Instead of attempting to place blame on the worker by insisting your words were taken incorrectly, make an effort to be clearer upfront and to take responsibility when your words are misinterpreted.
"That's stupid because..."
Just because you think it, doesn't mean you have to say it. Countless careers have been saved by people who know when to hold their tongues and not let negative thoughts creep out.
Instead of bad-mouthing a colleague or project, talk to a trusted friend who isn't a part of the industry or vent to your mentor. Everybody needs to let off steam from time to time, but it's unbecoming for a professional to speak negatively of a colleague or a company – no matter how much you might want to. Even if you do need to share negative feedback, there are better ways to do it.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and while what you're considering saying may very well be true, trust and respect can't grow in a negative environment. As an added bonus, you may find that – if you learn to hold your tongue – the people around you will come to trust you more, simply because they know you aren't going to spread their mistakes throughout the office.
"Do as I say, not as I do..."
This phrase creates the perception that you want to instill values in others without being expected to embrace the same characteristics in your own life. It's frustrating when your parents do it, and it can be just as challenging in the workplace. I've had bosses tell me this in the past, and I have to tell you, I didn't respect any of them.
The best way to earn trust from those who are around you is to be true – to your word, to others around you and to yourself. If you say something, live it. There should be no surprise that if you speak it, you practice it – no matter how rigorous the calling may be.
"This time, I promise..."
When it comes down to it, a person is only as good as their word, and that's all the more reason to make sure yours is true. Ideally, good leaders shouldn't need to ever make a promise, because what they say normally carries the same weight as a promise.
Try not to get to the point where you need to make a promise in order for someone to consider putting his or her trust in what you say. Rather, have your character be so well known that when you make a promise, it's just extra reassurance and a reminder of how trustworthy you are. When you do make commitments, make sure you have actions set in places tohelp you keep your promises.
"Did you hear about…?"
Let's all just admit it now… People can do some pretty crazy stuff, and you may find yourself shocked from time to time by how royally somebody screwed up or how badly a project was botched.
But while repeating these stories and mistakes to our peers can be fun, it's not a good thing to indulge in when you're trying to build rapport. It never ends well when word gets back around to the people involved in the story, and those who you do gossip to will begin to fear for the day they make a bonehead mistake. Treat everyone with respect, and you'll easily gain respect from others. Forgive quickly and don't make a big deal when a team player messes up, as it's forgiveness that fosters real friendship.
"It's not my fault because..."
Give credit where credit is due, and take blame when you deserve it. When something is your fault, speak up and say so. Make sure you're clear that you're sorry it happened, and take ownership for the mistake. Follow this with a sincere apology, in addition to a description of the steps you'll take to prevent the same issue from happening again in the future. Repeat as necessary.
Being willing to take responsibility will you earn huge amounts of respect and trust from others. If it isn't clear who's at fault, it's better to remain quiet – unless you're willing to take the blame on a gray issue. Telling others why it's not your fault is the same as blaming someone else and adds unnecessary chatter to an already-difficult situation.
In our day to day lives, it's easy to shirk responsibility or to duck blame to make your life easier. But you've got to take a bigger picture view as well. If you aren't careful to protect your reputation through the words you say, you'll find yourself facing a seriously uphill battle to built trust and respect in the workplace.
What other words or phrases would you add to this list? Share your suggestions by leaving a comment below: