9 ways you can say things better
You must have given a sincere compliment to someone before "You look good today," yet he could have taken it the wrong way, as if it means that the said person doesn't look good on other days. Misinterpretation is a common problem in our communication process. We may not always have realized how our casual phrases carry out subtle implications for other people. It is worth considering that the message we attempt to convey may be distorted from the point-of-view of its recipient.
Being aware of this is an advantage especially if you have to deal with diverse groups around you. It may be useful to your job or that it may help you become more sensitive towards what others feel. Improving "social awareness"—a necessary innate skill to understand the subjective experiences of others, would give us an edge in interacting with other people on a day to day basis, like letting us avoid unnecessary repulsive tone.
Communicating with other people in a better way is a signifier of a good social skill, which is in turn a huge variable of Emotional Quotient (EQ) according to TalentSmart. Having high EQ allows you to persuade other people on sales talk for an instance as it is shown to be 58% responsible of your job performance and that those with higher EQ tend to have higher annual income as well. This common sense backed up by statistical basis points out that we have to at least improve our communication skills, not just in terms of technicality, but also in its emotive aspect.
In line with this, there are several ways you could improve your conversational phrases in order to avoid offending people or at least leave a high chance that your point is not misinterpreted.
- 'You look good today'
Human beings are naturally fond of sincere praises. However, it is also normal that praises for them should be outright positive, without a potential double-sided meaning. Telling someone "you look good today," may appear to him that he does not look good on any other time or day, and that such moment was an exception.
Better alternative: 'You look great (with that outfit)!'
Drop the time determiner so that the person would simply take the compliment as it is. Additional phrases like “you look great/better 'with your hat, or sunglasses,'" may do as well.
- 'You seem/look stressed.'
Being concerned with our acquaintances is customary. But showing how we are concerned must be carefully crafted because it may aggravate the problem of the affected party. Telling somebody that he looks stressed or haggard is arguably not an effective way to show empathy since it is already assuming that the person must be having some problems due to the unattractive aura or facial feature he exhibits.
Better alternative: "Feel free to share anything." This kind of phrase or a question like "is there anything which you would like to share or talk about?" somehow allows the other person to open up the details about the situation he's in. It is not condescending nor assuming unlike the aforementioned phrase you should avoid. Plus, it does not imply that his problems make him look unattractive.
- 'Please don't be offended but...'
Even with the first few words, people naturally expect that the content following such phrase would be offensive. Being straightforward about criticism or compliment can be done with a more refined tone in order to let the one you're talking to feel at ease.
Better alternative: "It will be cool/great if I talk to you about this in private..." is a wordy yet a sophisticated approach in laying out the intention to say something straightforward while minimizing the barrier of negative expectation.
- 'My God, you finally did it!'
This phrase simply implies that for the longest time, the person is able to do something he finds hard to achieve that should be too easy for others to do. It undermines the person's ability on that specific subject.
Better alternative: "Congrats for making it!" This simple yet direct way of applauding someone about his accomplishment never gets old. Of course, tone and contexts are also important.
- 'Do whatever you want.'
Passive-aggressive phrases disconnect us from other people, making us appear hostile and sarcastic. This is one of the most common lines you will hear when someone disagrees with your decision yet would hold back his opinion in an unpleasant manner.
Better alternative: "I sincerely respect your decision despite my disagreement." Too formal? Yes, formality at times means civility and vice versa. We need to converse in such a manner on certain occasions which permit the parties involved to arrive on understandable mode of disagreement.
- "...Oh good luck with that."
It is like saying that the person's goal is pretty impossible and that you are not supportive of his action or effort. "Are you gonna try to convince that thrifty guy to purchase your secondhand clothes for charity? Oh good luck with that." sounds like it comes from a very cynical person.
Better alternative: "I think that it will be difficult to ___, but there's no harm in trying." Isn't that much more approachable?
- 'As you can see...'
The person that you're speaking with must not be blind (unless he is, then it is actually worse). Of course, he can see the one you're pertaining to. It is an unhelpful phrase to begin with.
Better alternative: "If you could notice..." Changing certain terms somehow change the tone as well, and improve it a little.
- 'Okay then, fine!'
It is obviously not okay nor fine at all for the person who says this or for the one being spoken with. We come across with this silly phrase at times, and probably even use this ourselves to mean the opposite.
Better alternative: "Can we talk further about this?" is one way of implying disagreement without sounding like you're nagging using few words.
- 'Sorry then...'
It is a half-hearted apology. To say it is akin to being forced to apologize which shows unwillingness on your part.
Better alternative: "My bad." If you would not like to use the usual "I am sorry" for light mistakes then trying more modern phrases might cool off the situation.
AND MANY MORE... There are much better alternatives than the way we are accustomed to. Creativity and self-awareness are the keys. Sometimes it is better to get used to better ways of talking to other individuals than stick to our traditional statements for responding to if not proactively asking a query. Just like that, always try to talk smart.