11 Phrases That Will Make You More Successful at Work

What you say at work is almost as important as what you do at work. These phrases will help you sound smarter, more respectful, and ultimately, help you succeed at the office.

1 / 11
cancel meetings with tact successful phrase

Cancel meetings with tact

You have to cancel a meeting and come up with a reason—or tell the actual reason. Excuses already sound, well, excuse-y, so to validate your behaviour it’s important to choose the right words. Gary Burnison, author of Lose the Resume, Land the Job, reported for CNBC that standard Stanford business practices include being honest whenever possible, and avoiding typical excuses such as “current meeting running late” and “got a fire to put out.” Instead, validate the significance of the missed appointment by saying “I understand how important this is…” or “I’m really sorry but I have to reschedule.” Then quickly move towards potential dates and times when you can make this happen.

Use these magic phrases to defuse awkward conversations.

2 / 11
ask the question successful phrase

Ask the question

Challenge your assumptions about others by asking a question instead of responding with a statement; this can be a powerful argument avoidance strategy in the workplace, according to Mack Shwab, executive director for the Dale Carnegie Institute for Kentucky, Southern Indiana, and Southern Ohio. He recommends getting in the mindset to be a more curious person by asking “Why do you think that?” to gain more information about a person’s stance instead of jumping to conclusions.

Want to go even further in your career? Here are the signs you can’t trust your boss.

3 / 11
solution successful phrase

Make them think your solution is their idea

In every classic persuasion training, the “winner” has succeeded by making the other person think their solution was the other person’s own idea. Shwab says it’s no different now. To accomplish this, use more questioning strategies to get them to consider multiple points of view such as: “What would be the benefit if we go that way?” and “What would be the benefit to you if that happens?”

4 / 11
being wrong successful phrase

“Emphatically” admitting you’re wrong

We’ve all heard the deep significance of apologizing when you are wrong in a relationship. But the Carnegie institute specifically teaches doing so “emphatically.” For example, instead of just saying “I’m sorry,” elaborate a bit to ensure the other party really feels your emotion. You could say, “Hey, I’m really wrong about that and I’m really sorry.” The emphatic nature of this style of apology diffuses the other person more quickly and also creates a culture where it’s safe to admit mistakes. It’s also a best practice to outwardly say you forgive someone, instead of leaving them to wonder where they stand.

Don’t miss these other etiquette rules we should never abandon.

5 / 11
idea successful phrase

Avoid the “and/or/but” to demonstrate respect

After pursuing the other person’s viewpoint, it’s imperative to avoid the words “and,” “or,” and “but” to ensure the coworker or boss has felt thoroughly heard. Instead, replace these debate-oriented words with a pause and a breath, then say, “that’s an interesting idea. It triggered a thought in my head,” Shwab recommends. His strategy of separating your coworker’s suggestion from your presentation of your own idea demonstrates respect for them.

Find out how to stop bullying at the workplace once and for all.

6 / 11
kindness successful phrase

Kill them with kindness

We all have that coworker, but we don’t have to be that coworker. Using extreme friendliness with the toughest cookie in your department may not change their generally terrible demeanor towards the world, but you may be the person who, as Shwab calls it, “begins in a friendly way.” He compares it to how a dog acts when they can’t wait to see you, complete with the wagging tail. “You will be shocked by the way they change.” Simply starting with “How are you?” and caring can make a difference.

Have two minutes to spare? Check out these quick and simple acts of kindness!

7 / 11
advice successful phrase

Acknowledge unsolicited advice

A suggestion is defined as an “idea or plan put forward for consideration.” When you receive unsolicited advice at work, responding with “thanks for the suggestion,” will preserve your integrity when you are annoyed and can simultaneously shut down the advice-giver while making them feel somewhat appreciated (maybe both). After all, their idea is out there for your consideration, not your immediate acceptance, right where advice belongs.

Discover the one magic phrase that will stop gossip in its tracks.

8 / 11
yes successful phrase

Getting to yes

Sometimes negative coworkers or bosses are simply in a sour mental place and used to saying no. You have the power to get them in a “yes” frame of mind before pitching an idea or requesting something through a series of questions about basic facts, Shwab says. He shares an example of trying to sell a widget in a proposal in which others are already against it. Asking a series of yes or no questions to present the positives will lead to more “yes’s.” “For example, you could ask ‘Do you think it will help our customer base?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you think the new widget would make us more profitable?’ ‘Yes,'” he said. Then you move into the potential problematic areas discussion with this yes mindset prepared.

9 / 11
compliment successful phrase

A compliment plus a reason

We’ve all given and received meaningless compliments. “That’s amazing.” “Great job.” While they are appreciated, it’s so much more meaningful to demonstrate evidence for the compliment with specifics. To make it sound sincere, Shwab says, “You have to substantiate it with evidence…if you don’t give an example it loses all its teeth.”

Being authentic is one of the best ways to give a meaningful compliment, so avoid these condescending compliments.

10 / 11
repeat it back successful phrase

Repeat it back

Listening and relationship experts encourage reciting back someone’s words, in your own words, to ensure you have understood and to communicate that understanding back to the speaker. This can start simply with “What I hear you saying…” or “What I think you are saying…” and then discrepancies can be corrected from there before proceeding onto the real work. According to the Harvard Business Review, people only ever retain half of what you said, so this can ensure you remember at least that much.

11 / 11
thank you successful phrase

Accept compliments graciously

A thank you with a period is more sincere than a “thank you so much” or an “I really appreciate it.” It’s the classiest way to receive a compliment, without any elaboration, self-deprecation (“Thanks. I didn’t work that long on the presentation.”) It demonstrates confidence and appreciation without cockiness or insecurity.

Read on to find out the things your boss wants you to stop saying.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest