Little things we say every day can make or break our workplace image. Darlene Price, an executive coach and founder of Well Said Inc., has a list of phrases that we may know to avoid. But find me someone who has never said any of them. Because reminders can't hurt, Price offers these career-sinking phrases and career-polishing alternatives:
Instead of "That's impossible" or "I can't do that," say "What I can do is ."
Avoid a blame statement like "You should have" by using a collaborative approach like "Help me understand why . "
Never say "It's not my job . or problem . or pay grade." Figure out whose job it is and offer to help get it done.
Those are all pretty basic comparisons between approaches. But Price has several more nuanced distinctions.
To project authority or at least be heard, don't start with "I may be wrong" or "This may be a dumb question" or "a silly idea." If you begin with self-deprecation, you invite others to discount your input.
Even more subtly, Price advises you to offer a suggestion by saying "I believe" rather than "I think." Belief, she says, is more confident.
Not convinced? Compare your gut reaction to "I think you'll like this" to "I believe you'll like this."
She says aspiring leaders also should shy away from ending a statement with "don't you think?" or "isn't it?" or "okay?" Those are "validation questions" that seek approval and negate certainty.
Reputations also are made in routine interactions with co-workers. We may be on deadline or overloaded with work, but she says we shouldn't be brusque or appear too busy to handle the job.
Don't say "I don't have time for this." Instead say, "I'm on deadline, but I can do it (or talk to you) later this afternoon," she recommends.
Price also says there are two little words - "but" and "and" — that can pack an image wallop. "That's good, but we don't have the money for it" creates a negative that overwhelms the positive.
Substitute "That's good, and we'll have to find the money for it" for a positive reaction.