How What You Say Affects You At Work

Do you think about what you say at work? Alfonso Bucero certainly does. He presented at PMI Global Congress EMEA in Dublin (2011) on the subject of why we should choose our words carefully.

“During many years as a project manager, I was not conscious about the consequences of the words I used with my team members, customers and other stakeholders,” Bucero said. “Many times your words can have more power than you imagine. Your beliefs create your reality.”

He explained that people pick up on negative phrases and that this impacts how they feel about you and your project. Choosing the right words to create the right impression of your project can contribute to team morale and project success.

“You as a leader cannot be negative in your sessions as you transmit negativity. A leader achieves things in a positive way.”

Alfonso Bucero
Alfonso Bucero

8 Phrases to Use in Project Communications

Bucero gave us a list of 8 phrases to include in our project communications. They are:

  • I made a mistake (This is recognizing you made a mistake and showing you can learn from it)
  • I can
  • I believe
  • I’ll respect
  • Thank you, I appreciate it
  • I want you (working in my team)
  • I’m listening
  • I need you (to collaborate)

“Thank you is an easy word, it’s low cost,” he added, “but it’s not used so much in project management. The key thing in my opinion for a project manager to do is to take care of people.” Saying thanks certainly helps with that.

Read Next: Here are 15 (easy) ways to celebrate success at work.

He didn’t talk about it explicitly in his presentation, but the inference was that being positive is not at all the same thing as lying about the status of what you are working on. Even if you give or receive bad news, phrase your interactions with others in a positive way. In other words, don’t whinge at your colleagues.

“Nobody cares about your problems as a leader. They are your problems.

Alfonso Bucero

Use Language for Accountability

“Sometimes the only way to move forward in life and to achieve an ambitious goal is to cut off all avenues of retreat,” Bucero said.

He used this technique when he was writing his first book. He wrote to his friends telling them that he was going to get the book written by a certain date. By making his goals public, he created accountability for himself. Other people could hold him to account if he did not hit his deadline.

“If you can write down your particular commitment, you will be able to achieve it,” he said. “The human being has no limitations.”

Write down your goals for work and make people accountable to them. You can also try this with team ground rules for how you are going to work together. Words can also underpin the creation of a results-based culture because they help set and manage expectations.

Watch What You Say

Non-verbal messages often contradict the verbal messages. Body language is important, Bucero said. “More than 65% of your communication is body language. In the Spanish culture it is absolutely needed, you need to use your hands and your eyes. But please, don’t contradict your verbal messages.”

“Remember that your words have much more power than you can imagine,” he said. “You cannot keep repeating negative words and expect to be a high achiever. It is up to you to speak in a way that will move you to what you want to achieve.”

Next steps

Want to take this topic further? Here are some action steps you can do to improve the way you communicate.

  • Think about what phrases you say the most. If you can’t think of anything, ask your colleagues what they hear you say most often. Are those the things you want to be known for?
  • Get a project communications plan template
  • Consider joining Project Management Rebels, our mentoring and learning community, so you can get support with developing your personal style and meet twice a month with other project managers trying to create a positive work culture in their organizations.