Sometimes you inadvertently say things that scare your colleagues into thinking something's much worse than it is.
It's not intentional: It's just that you're busy and you don't always have the time to think through how you're coming off.
However, though there are phrases that cause a visceral negative reaction, there are also some that'll instantly make your co-workers smile--and improve your workplace relationships. Not only that, they're so common that incorporating them into your communication at work will feel like second nature.
Seriously, give one of the options below a test run this week--you just might make someone's day.
1. "How can I help?"
It's natural to get caught up in your own work--after all, that's your job. But if you always look too busy to connect with your co-workers, you might seem a little self-involved.
An easy fix is to look up from your desk and simply ask what a co-worker's working on--and if there's any way for you to pitch in and help. This simple two-part question reinforces the idea that you're a team player willing to take time out of your schedule to support someone else. Because you're actively demonstrating that you're not too busy to be bothered, you'll be seen as more friendly, more approachable, and yes, more likable.
2. "Could you tell me more?"
Maybe you really are too busy to lend a hand, but I bet you have a couple of minutes to actively listen to your co-worker. And sometimes, that's all it takes to make someone's afternoon.
Do you ever feel like you need to give a one-line summary of your latest project so you don't overwhelm (or bore) someone? Compare that with how it feels when someone makes it clear he has the time--and interest--to hear the fleshed out version of your idea.
You come away from the two interactions with two different sentiments. When someone listens to you, you feel that person is extra considerate, and someone you could reach out to in the future. So, next time someone tells you she's trying to come up with a new protocol and says, "But you probably don't want to hear all about that," follow up with, "If you have the time, I'd love to hear more."
3. "What are your thoughts on this?"
As I was speaking with someone the other day, she tossed out an idea she'd been brainstorming and asked if I had any thoughts on the subject. She's a pretty prestigious person, and the fact that she wanted to hear from me instantly made her feel more approachable.
It's intuitive--but it's often overlooked. When you make it clear you value someone's opinion (by something as easy as asking for it), you demonstrate that you'd like to hear from that person (and all employees want to think their colleagues hold a high opinion of them!). So, share something you've been considering, and follow up with any variation of "Do you have any suggestions?" or "I'd love to hear what you think!"
4. "Would you like to grab a cup of coffee?"
Yes, spending a little time with someone outside the office to build your bond is a pretty obvious tactic. However, all too often, people only grab coffee with the colleagues they already have a killer working relationship with. And, by continually excluding the person you don't know very well, you're not doing that relationship--or your general likability rating--any favors.
So, next time you're headed out of the office to grab something to drink, invite the newbie on the team or the person you don't know very well. Even if you get shot down, you'll still make the impression that you tried to get to know him better.
All employees have one or two or five colleagues with whom they wish they had a better rapport. Try one of the above lines tomorrow to make that start happening ASAP.