Phrases that won’t kill your career and might increase your credibility
When I was very new to the world of work I was working on a longish term project. Towards the end of the project I made a decision to finish up one aspect of the work and concentrate elsewhere. To this day I cannot recall why I decided to do so, to make that particular decision was beyond my pay grade at the time, and I am usually very collaborative by nature. However, I did make the decision and it was later discovered that a quite critical piece of the project had not been worked on for some weeks because of it. My boss at the time was ropable and he took me to task in front of my other colleagues. After berating me for what felt like an hour and a half, he asked me what I had to say for myself. I responded that I had made a decision, and that it had been a mistake. I told him that I stuffed up, and apologised and said that I would do whatever was needed to remedy the situation.
At that point, his whole attitude changed. I could see him physically deflate. He thanked me for my honesty and actually told me that I had done really well on the other aspects of the project. It taught me a valuable life lesson; own your triumphs and own up to your tragedies. I live by this in my personal and professional life.
Other key phrases that can increase your credibility at work, without killing your career:
- I am sorry. Not in the sorry for bumping into you type of sorry, but when you have done something (or not done something) that has adversely affected a colleague type of apology. If you were late with a report that your boss was waiting for, an apology for not getting it in on time will be well received. Ignoring that you have inconvenienced someone, or made them late as a result of your actions will not make them think more highly of you.
- I don’t understand. There is absolutely no expectation that you get everything on first reveal anywhere in life, so it is patently ridiculous that some folks refuse to acknowledge that they don’t understand something. It is in everyone’s best interest at work that you all have a good understanding of what you are doing, failing to seek clarification because it makes you feel embarrassed will potentially just make you look dumb in the long run. Remember at school the saying, “There are no stupid questions”?, apply that.
- Can I have your advice on something? No person is an island, and as a result unilaterally determining everything in your work sphere is not the best of ideas. Seek out other people’s advice, test theories and ideas and use that feedback to make your work output better.
- “So, you are saying…..” This is really replaying the message that you have been given back to the person who gave it to you. It does two things, it demonstrates that you understood what you were being told and also demonstrates that you were listening. You get the added benefit of being able to clarify in your own words. This is particularly helpful when the advice or instruction is a little vague.
- Thank you and please. There are leadership coaches out there who will tell you that it wastes your time to add polite words to your communication, particularly if you are in charge and giving instruction. I disagree wholeheartedly. It takes me less than a second or so to type thank you or please and the same in speech. Rather than thinking about my time I think about showing people that I respect them enough to ask with politeness. I assume all of my staff and colleagues are choosing to work with me, and can make the choice to be elsewhere. This will vary from culture to culture, but I believe it does not hurt in any circumstance.
It may not feel entirely comfortable to use these phrases, particularly if you are not accustomed to doing so. Give it a try, see how you go.
Do you have any other phrases that you use that may increase your credibility, please share, I’d love to hear from you…. leave your comment below.