work hard and be niceIt’s not what you say it’s the way you say it.

Did you grow up with your parents saying that to you, like I did? Tone, body language, facial expression and word choice all come together to create either a positive or negative experience in conversation.  See the examples below to illustrate this point.

The first options are terse and confrontational, though sometimes in very subtle ways. The person to whom you’re talking may not even be able to put their finger on why the conversation is uncomfortable, but it most definitely is.

You’re doing a great job, but you need to work on…
You’re doing a great job — and working on……would be a good next step.

I need to talk to you about your attitude.
I’ve noticed a few things about the demeanor I’m seeing at work.

What do you mean by that?
Help me understand….

That’s not going to work…
We tried something similar and the result was….Help me understand this approach.

I can’t do that.
Here’s what I can do…

A recent study indicated that 14% of workers surveyed want to hit someone at work!  (I’m betting the percentage is higher, but even if it’s not…) The American Institute of Stress reports that 28% of stress at work is caused by people issues. People who annoy one another in part, while in conversation.

The words and tone you choose have an enormous impact on the people around you.  A good test is to say what you plan to say out loud, to yourself.  How would you receive that comment or question?