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Innocent phrases that can hurt

Avoid these wimpy remarks

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in Office Management

Top managers do not take their words lightly. They understand that even the most casual of remarks can either enhance their standing or harm it. Here are some examples of phrases to avoid:

I’m too busy/I don’t have time/I’m just buried. While you may be telling the truth, no one wants to hear about your backlog. Whether you’re griping or merely pointing out your workload, you’ll come across as someone who can’t control his time. It’s better to get out your appointment book and say, “Let me go ahead and reserve a time to take care of that for you.”

It’s one of those days/Things are crazy here/You’ve caught me at a bad time. Have you noticed how often people try to excuse their behavior by blaming “a crazy day”? These lines are so overused that they’ve lost their meaning. Even if you’re facing a real crisis, people don’t want to know about it. They’re more concerned about what they need than with the reasons why you can’t deliver.

Furthermore, such remarks imply that you’re dismissive about getting the job done. That might lead others to think you won’t take responsibility for following through.

I put a call in to them/I’m waiting to hear back from them. While you may think there’s nothing wrong with awaiting a response, others may expect more from you than a wait-and-see approach. Leaders don’t get caught in a reactive mode; they take initiative and seek out the information right away.

I assumed that was taken care of/I thought we already covered that. If you’re tempted to make an assumption about an important issue, make it explicit. Confirm your understanding. If you jump ahead and assume your audience knows what you know, then you can waste everyone’s time and lose opportunities to persuade others.

I’m not sure about that/Don’t quote me on that. If you’re uncertain, don’t take a stab at answering an important question. Instead, say “Let me research that and give you an answer within the hour.” Speculating can waste time, and some people may tune out the moment they realize you don’t know the answer.

I’ll try my best. No matter how earnest you sound, this comment tends to rankle. That’s because you leave yourself an out in case you fail. Next time, commit to what you know you can deliver and say, “I’ll get it done.”

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