When we were younger, we heard “use your words” all the time. And maybe it’s time to bring that mantra back—because using the right words at work is an easy and effective method of boosting your reputation while simultaneously making your co-workers feel awesome.
So, ready to stand out for your thoughtfulness, tact, and influence? Here are the eight phrases that need to be in your professional vocabulary.
1. “That’s Brilliant”
The last time someone called my suggestion brilliant, it made my day. “Brilliant” is much more powerful than “great,” “awesome,” or any of the other adjectives we typically call on to praise someone’s work or concept.
Yet I’m careful to only use this word when the situation merits it, since I don’t want to seem inauthentic.
2. “That’s Genius”
Same idea. You rarely hear “genius,” so it definitely packs a punch. Using it is a great way to show your respect and appreciation of a co-worker.
3. “Thank You”
“Thanks” sounds flippant. “Thanks so much” is usually excessive. “Thank you!” is rarely authentic on a day-to-day basis in the workplace (yes, that exclamation mark makes a difference).
But a simple thank you, period strikes the perfect balance between genuine and grateful.
4. “Fantastic Question”
When someone asks a question, he or she’s admitting to not knowing something—however, with this response, you’re essentially taking responsibility for that thing.
So instead of feeling bad, the person’s proud to have zeroed in on a crucial-but-missing element of the conversation. And, as a bonus, this comment encourages future questions—which leads to a healthy and transparent environment.
5. “Yes, And…”
This might be Improv 101, but it’s also a great way to remove “but” from your vocabulary. (Something I’m working at doing, along with “actually,” “sorry,” and “me.”)
Whenever people hear “but,” they instantly become defensive. After all, it’s pretty clear you’re about to disagree with them or deliver unwelcome news.
Replacing the “but” with “and” lets you deliver exactly the same message while making sure your listeners keep an open mind.
6. “I Understand”
Half of the conflicts I see in the workplace could be solved if someone had just said, “I understand.” (And not “I understand, but…”)
No one wants to feel like the crazy person in the situation. By acknowledging someone’s emotions or opinion, you’ll make him or her way more likely to compromise.
7. “How Can I Help?”
As someone who’s fairly low on the company totem pole, I try to offer my help any time I can. And I get a lot of surprised (and grateful!) looks.
If you’ve got the bandwidth, try offering help next time your co-worker or boss is telling you about an issue he or she is facing. Even if you get a no, your willingness to take on a problem that’s not yours will be noticed—and remembered.
8. “In Your Situation…”
I usually try to frame my feedback as, “This is how I’d do it,” rather than “This is how you should do it.” That way, the person I’m talking to has a choice: He or she can follow my suggestions, or not. Giving people direct advice—even when they’ve asked for it—can make them resent being told what to do.