How To Be Effective In The Office

I’d like to share with you a few little workplace-effectiveness techniques that boost success. Did you know that changing just a few of the everyday words you use while conducting business can actually enhance people’s positive impressions of you? Here are three quick and highly effective linguistic tips you can start using today and learn how to be effective in the office.

  1. “Do” or “can” instead of “try.” When you’re a pro at what you do, you understand the importance of managing expectations among the people you support and work within the office. That’s why so many of us use the word “try” (as in, “I will try to have that report finished Tuesday”) to buffer our schedules and communicate parameters on tasks and projects. Problem: “Try” has a somewhat wimpy connotation, as if you’re unsure – even when you aren’t, of course! Solution: Replace with variations of the words “do” or “can” instead – and focus on what is definite: “I’ll do a preliminary outline by Tuesday for review,” or “I will complete a preliminary outline Tuesday.”
  1. “Believe” instead of “think” or “feel.” If you’re a careful listener, you’ll often hear people say something like, “I think/feel the best course of action is….” Communication experts agree that replacing “think/feel” with “believe” expresses even more assertiveness and self-confidence to management, colleagues, and clients: “I believe you’re right.” Bonus fact: To communicate even more directly and succinctly, practice dropping the use of “I believe,” and stick with the statement itself: “You’re right.”
  1. “And” instead of “but.” Here’s one of my favorites! See if you can tell the difference between these two statements: “I know you’ve missed the deadline, but…” vs. “I know you’ve missed the deadline, and….” The first sets up a negative “but,” which precedes bad news – and since people know this, they tend to get defensive or tune out whatever follows, regardless of its legitimacy. Conversely, the second statement acknowledges the bad news, yet skillfully avoids the sense that a shoe is about to fall. Result? The “and” says, “We can work on a solution, which is more important than the blame right now” – and people are far more likely to listen, meaning communication improves.

Successful professionals focus on what I call the “language of the positive.” There are many, many more examples of this than those I’ve provided. Can you think of any additional ways to change commonly used words or phrases so co-workers and clients respond even better? I encourage you to delve deep and test new ways to communicate verbally. Have a great week!

Joan Burge

monday motivators

This post is part of Joan’s Monday Motivators, a weekly editorial designed to kick off your week with practical ways to create a new mindset, change behaviors, develop positive relationships and thrive in the workplace with energy, effectiveness, and excellence. Sign up HERE to follow Joan’s Monday Motivators.


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4 thoughts on “How To Be Effective In The Office”

  1. Laura Hall-Daniels

    I have trained myself to say “I didn’t make the time to do…” instead of saying “I didn’t have time to do…”. We all have the same amount of time in a day — how we choose to spend it is just that, a choice. Therefore if something isn’t done it’s because you didn’t make time for it. It just sounds like I’m more in control of my day, and I know what my priorities are.

    1. This is so true. My high school band director would say, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.” As an admin, we’re typically the ones helping to pick up the slack for others who didn’t make time for something, and then it’s our day that gets out of control and we’re the ones scrambling to find ways to just make things happen. We often help those co-workers who “don’t have time” but ALL of us “don’t have time.” You have to MAKE the time.

  2. I often need to field silly requests. Instead of saying, “No,” I ask the requestor to do the research and come back to me with suggestions. Very often the requestor never comes back (problem solved!), but when they do, they have now provided the information for me to approve or deny the request without wasting a lot of my own time.

    1. I often have to reiterate to coworkers the steps on how to complete a process. Yes, I could do more of what is being asked of me, and will if it’s definitely needed, but when I explain the process or offer suggestions, I rarely get a return response from them, which saves me a lot of time and legwork completing their task for them.

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