Foul phrases

Magic phrases build effective workplace relationships and encourage cooperation and foul phrases do the opposite. Here are a few to avoid:

  • Yes, but …
    But butts away what’s gone before. When people hear it, they know bad news is coming: ‘You did a good job but …’ (‘However’ is just a longer form of ‘but’:  ‘I understand what you’re saying, however …’)
    You’ll be amazed at how well replacing ‘buts’ and ‘howevers’ with ‘ands’ works!
  • You’ll have to … (e.g. ‘You’ll have to put that request in writing.’)
    This is pushy; no one likes being told they have to do something. Explain why you need something done a certain way and when you can, ask (‘Would you mind putting that in writing because …’ or ‘I’ll need that in writing so that …’)
  • It’s only my opinion or I just think …
    Who wants to hear an opinion whose owner thinks isn’t worth much? Better to say: ‘I think’ or ‘I believe that …’ or even ‘It seems to me …’
  • Why questions (e.g. ‘Why did you do that?’)
    To avoid making people defensive, ask ‘How did this come about?’ or ‘What led to your decision to do that?’ or ‘What makes you say that?’
  • That’s not right! or You’re wrong about that!
    So that people don’t dig in their heels to defend what they’ve said to the death, say something like ‘Here’s how I see it’ or ‘I remember it differently.’

Discussion questions

How many foul phrases did you use this week? How could you have made your point more effectively?