Office Etiquette Rule Number 4: Watch What You Say and How You Say It

Office Etiquette Rule Number 4: Watch What You Say and How You Say It

Don't say you are going to do something and not do it. Don't be a lazy and yes, when you mean no. And certainly don't be a passive aggressive type person who says yes only to look agreeable and then not do it.

The English language is a walking minefield at times. The words sometimes don't match the tone. The words don't match the volume. Tone and volume matter. Watch what you say--don't promise something you can't deliver on.

Equally important don't be a rager and sound pissed off and combative because you think that's what people need to hear from you.

Instead be thoughtful with what you say. I think the less said the better--but only when you are there to make a point. Here's what Winston Churchill said, when he gave a commencement address to a group of graduates from his prestigious alma mater , "Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never give in." Well, the truth is that speech is a falsehood. Churchill never gave that short of an address to his school. He gave a longer address. But apparently people wish he would have given the shorter speech as it is the stuff of how legends are made.

Here's the lesson from the Churchill speech he never made. People want to short memorable quote. Add too many words behind the quote, and the people forget the quote and more importantly the point. Let people think that you are thoughtful, not thoughtless. Act like a person who thinks, think like a person of action.

Say things in a positive, upbeat manner. No matter how much your boss complains about others, don't chime in. Don't go along with the negative crowd. Let people see you as someone who never drones on and never complains. And please, whatever you do, don't suck you by sounding like a sycophant, to anyone, except your spouse. Save the "how great you" are for your spouse.

If you complain once, that's once too often. After a while, the boss thinks you are a complainer, a whiner, a gossip. And soon the boss avoids you. That's not a position you want to be in.

In a meeting, make one point, one statement, in as few words as possible. You want people to want to hear more. You don't want people to wish you would shut the heck up.

Here's another important point: people don't always remember what you say, more often they remember how you said it. Said another way, how you said something conjured up some feeling and it made them feel either good or bad. In some cases people will say you said such and such, when you are going when did I say that? No way I said that! But you did--maybe not in the exact words--but to them you did.

Let me be clear as I close out this point: I am not saying sounding good is more important than substance. But competence comes in many forms. Speaking is a core competency to master. No one will know how good you are if you cannot speak clearly, professionally, and persuasively.

The shortest complete sentences are: "Yes" and "No." Use them, but be prepared when asked for further explanation by making a very short statement as to what was behind the yes and no. "The research I did says all cars that green have twice as many accidents in May." Then shut up.

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