There’s a popular book called “Eat This, Not That,” a handy guide to making better choices in your diet. Perhaps our business communication would benefit from the same approach. How can you reduce the amount of negative interactions you have each day and increase your healthy and productive communications at work?
I’ve occasionally been accused of putting an overly polite or positive spin on things, but that’s one of the ways I disarm difficult people and get things done. Sometimes it takes a little longer to get results but there is definitely a method to my manners. Here are a few examples of how politeness pays off:
- When a peer asks for something outside the scope of my regular duties, I could simply say “that’s not my job.” That would be a time-saving end to the conversation… as well as possibly an end to the positive relationship with that colleague. Instead, I’ll say, “Let me see if I can find someone who can help you with that.” If you do this, the requestor will appreciate you pointing them in the right direction and remember you as a team player the next time you need help.
- When someone unfairly criticizes your work in front of a meeting or in a group email, your natural tendency may be to fight back with defensive excuses. Instead, disarm the critic with a simple “Thank you for that feedback. We are always looking to improve.” Then calmly discuss what you’re doing and why and ask the rest of the group for input. Often the crowd will “shout down” the single critic for you, especially if the criticism was off base.
- If two people start a sidebar conversation in the middle of your meeting, you could shush them with a “Hey <insert name here>, can you pay attention?” Or you can gently hold up your hand and say “What you’re talking about sounds really important. Can you hold that for a moment until the whole group can address it?” It’s a polite way to eliminate the distraction and remind everyone to stay focused on what’s relevant to the majority.
Politeness is not weakness. It will help you build a stronger reputation as someone who gets things done without trampling others along the way. What polite comebacks do you use at work?