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Say it Like You Mean It


Much has been discussed about how women should or shouldn’t communicate in the workplace. Be assertive we're taught, but remember to be nice. Don't talk about your family, you're just a robot devoid of any emotions or personal relationships. Don't interrupt during a meeting, save your questions until the end and wait your turn. And most importantly, don't shout or they'll think you're unhinged. I could go on and on.

The unfortunate part of this is that too many of us play into these made-up rules and standards lest we face the chance that an overzealous boss decides they need to offer some constructive feedback, or heaven forbid, other won't like us. Instead of expressing ourselves directly and firmly, we often end up sugar coating the way we speak, the words we choose, and how we approach certain topics, so as not to inadvertently set off any alarms. Unfortunately, when we dance around what we really want to say, or apologize at every turn, it only paints us as indecisive or unable to articulate a cohesive thought. Do yourself and everyone else a favor and learn to say what you mean. It will get your point across, leave no room for misinterpretation, and hopefully return an equally clear and direct response. Now, I'm not suggesting you should be rude or disrespectful, but there are ways to be direct while maintaining professionalism, with just a few tweaks of the words you use each day. Here are some examples of how you can say what you mean and mean what you say without letting unnecessary words get in the way.

  • "I'm just checking in on the report to see how it's going." - No you aren't. It didn’t suddenly occur to you that you have a major presentation to deliver and you need that report. You didn't just happen to be in the neighborhood and decide to stop by for coffee and a report. What you really want to know is why that report hasn't been submitted by the deadline you set a week ago. Instead, say "The report is due today. Please email it to me no later than 10:00am so that I have time to study it before the presentation." Straightforward, with clear expectations. There's no question about what you need and when.

  • "Sally is here to help us out on this project." - No she's not. Sally's not a volunteer. She's someone with experience who's hired to do a job and get paid for it. Don't trivialize her role just so someone else doesn't feel slighted. Next time, say "Sally is our new team member, whose expertise is project management. She'll be the lead on the new account to make sure things get done according to our plan." Enough said.

  • "Just want to add my two cents for what it's worth." - I often say this when I'm afraid of voicing an opinion, especially when others might disagree. What does it even mean? Your opinion is valuable, don't discount what you have to say because you’re afraid of some opposition. Next time, say "I recommend plan B because the analysis shows it will be completed on time and under our budget." Who can argue when facts are presented?

  • "Sure, no worries." - Trust me, whoever you're saying this to is not the least bit worried. They’re probably thrilled that you jumped in to help them out. So, unless you're trying to make someone feel guilty about asking for help, just say "You're welcome."

Disclaimer - I have either been a perpetrator or witness to all of these scenarios and many others. Perhaps you have been as well. Nobody's perfect but send me your favorite examples so that others can avoid them.