It’s never just what you say, it’s how you make people feel. It’s the difference between telling someone what to do, and asking someone to do something for you. It’s the difference between coming off condescending and coming off helpful. It’s the difference between making someone feel like you think their idea is dumb, and helping someone see the pitfalls in their plan that they didn’t think of before.  The way we say things makes all the difference in how we are perceived at work.

So, how can you adjust the way you say things to come across better in the workplace?

Here’s a few phrases to start with:

  • Instead of saying “I don’t know how” say, “Is there someone who can train me how to do this? I’d love to learn.”
  • Replace“That won’t work,” with “Can you help me understand the process? I am having a difficult time visualizing how this will work.”
  • Don’t say, “I don’t have time,” say, “I have other competing priorities right now, when do you need this done by, and what is the priority of this project? I would like to adjust my priorities accordingly.”
  • Instead of saying, “I can’t,” say “Unfortunately, I haven’t had the training to do this. Do you know who has done this in the past? I’d love to learn from them.”
  • Instead of saying, “You are wrong,” say “That’s an interesting way to look at it. Have you thought about this angle?”

It’s all in the way you say things. Make sure to sound genuine and enthusiastic. Pay attention to your non-verbal body language, eye contact, and tone. Carry through with your actions, don’t just say you want to learn how, show people that you truly are willing to learn. Be mindful of the way you say things at work, follow-through, and try to always keep in mind how you make other people feel with the way you say things.