“Bumping this to the top of your inbox!” “Sending you a gentle reminder…” These are just a couple of the common workplace expressions that have an unintended negative impact on people we work with. In fact, as you’re reading this, you may be thinking of a colleague who “does that all the time.” But the thing is, we’ve probably all said something that stressed out, confused, or just plain irritated a coworker. That’s why self-awareness is such an important ingredient for effective communication in the workplace.
To help you get your message across in an impactful way, we’ve highlighted some common offenders: phrases that typically don’t land well on your audience, and what you can say instead:
What to stop saying: “As most of you already know…”
Sometimes when managers or leaders make a company-wide announcement or break some news to their teams, they begin with this phrase. And to be fair, they may be driven by a spirit of inclusivity, or a worry that they’ll come across as repetitive — but it can feel disparaging to listeners who have, in fact, been totally out of the loop. What’s more, employees may feel discouraged from speaking up or probing more — because they may assume that opportunities to ask questions have already happened, and they “should” already know the deal. They also may question their worth: If most people know about this, why don’t I?
Try this instead: Even if you have a hunch that “most people” have heard about your news or announcement, the next time you’re speaking to a group, drop the precursor and just say what you’re going to say, Joe Devito, Ph.D., professor emeritus at Hunter College and author of The Interpersonal Communication Book, tells Thrive.
What to stop saying: “Does that make sense?”
After explaining something to a group of colleagues — perhaps it’s a new business concept or some background information on an upcoming client meeting — it may seem like second nature to ask, “Does that make any sense?” But resist this impulse. Because while it often comes from a place of curiosity and care, the question implies that the listener doesn’t have the capacity to understand what you’re saying, or the agency to ask for clarity on their own, Jay Sullivan, a communications expert and author of Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond, told Thrive.
Try this instead: If your goal is to be of assistance to a group, say “what additional information would be helpful to you?” This phrase avoids condescension, Sullivan says, and makes space for others to ask questions or to move on.
What to stop saying: “This may be a terrible idea, but…”
Many people come by this phrase honestly — they’re genuinely nervous that their idea will sound silly or stupid, and they want to prevent embarrassment by acknowledging that it might be a miss. The problem is, saying it undermines your value and conveys that you aren’t confident in what you’re saying. “And at times this phrase may sound dishonest,” Devito says, because “the person wouldn’t bring it up if he or she really thought it was a terrible idea.”
Try this instead: Devito says the simplest introduction to your idea will be the best, i.e, “What do you think about this idea?” — no disclaimer needed.
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