There’s no way around it: we have to master workplace communication if we want to succeed in our careers. What makes the task all the more complicated is trying to find the perfect thing to say and way to say it in order to communicate clearly and be taken seriously. Unfortunately, even simple phrases can be perceived in a negative way. If I say, “Sorry about that!” my colleagues may believe I’m weak. If I say, “Friendly reminder…” my coworkers may assume I’m being passive-aggressive. So, we’re left frequently trying to strike the perfect balance in every interaction.
It’s easy to get caught up in overanalyzing every tiny detail. Does this sound okay? Am I being too nice? Did I use too many exclamation points? The list truly does go on. While we’re still trying to figure out the exact perfect amount of exclamation points, there are a few phrases successful women have in their back pockets to ensure they’re communicating effectively. Here they are:
1. “I don’t see it this way, and here’s why.”
Stating your opinion—especially when it’s different from other viewpoints in the room—can feel intimidating and nerve-wracking. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t held back from sharing at times.
But here’s the truth: your opinion is as important and relevant as everyone else’s, and you deserve to share it! It’s not rude to disagree with what others are saying, and you don’t have to apologize for having a different opinion, either. When sharing your opinion, it’s essential to consider the timing and your justification to back up your argument.
For example, if you’re in a meeting and your colleague asks if anyone has a different point of view, share yours while it’s relevant, don’t wait until after the fact. And to back up your reasoning for seeing things differently, make sure you have some concrete examples or references to share. You could say, “I don’t see us needing to return to the office five days per week, and here’s why. My team’s productivity has not declined. I want to continue supporting our team members with the flexibility to meet their at-home responsibilities because they provide better output with this freedom.”
2. “I have more thoughts to share.”
We’ve all been there: when you finally worked up the courage to share your perspective, and before you can finish your thoughts, a coworker interrupts and steals your thunder.
It happens all the time, and even though it can feel discouraging, it’s okay to jump back into the conversation and continue sharing your thoughts. If you’re sitting in a meeting and a coworker interrupts or speaks over you, try to find a natural pause in the conversation to say, “I have more thoughts to share. Thank you for your input, but I’d like to finish where I left off before we move on further.” Asserting yourself helps ensure your ideas are heard and gives you a well-deserved seat at the table.
This phrase also works well when a meeting gets cut short, and you don’t have the opportunity to finish providing your perspective. You can follow up via email and let your team members know you have more thoughts to share and outline them in the email or schedule a follow-up meeting to continue the discussion.
3. “My workload is full right now. What if we ask X?”
There’s a big difference between being a team player and getting taken advantage of, but successful women aren’t afraid to draw boundaries between the two. Women get asked to take on responsibilities outside their job descriptions all the time—be it planning an event or taking notes during a meeting.
Extra tasks add up quickly and can lead to burnout and frustration. So, the next time you get asked to take on extra work outside of your role (without additional compensation or recognition), don’t be afraid to clarify what does and does not fit into your workload, especially if the tasks aren’t part of your job description. But instead of leaving your team member hanging, try offering an alternative solution to avoid being a bottleneck.
If you aren’t sure where to start with this phrase, try using it the next time you get asked to take on a project you really don’t have time for that’s also outside of your normal workflow. You can say something like, “My workload is full right now, but I know X is really passionate about this subject and might be able to take this on.”
4. “I deserve a raise.”
The gender pay gap continues to exist. Confident and strong women know their worth and aren’t afraid to ask for what they deserve, even when it’s anxiety-inducing.
Even though we all wish we could simply state that we deserve a raise and receive one, there’s some additional work involved that will help strengthen your argument. Do your research to understand a fair rate for your role and create a compelling list of reasons that support why you deserve a raise, including your most recent achievements and contributions. Consider preparing your argument for your mid-year or end-of-year performance review, or find another time to talk with your manager (when you feel ready).
Being direct and confident about deserving a raise conveys to your manager that you know your worth and will fight for it (as you should). Add this phrase to your vocabulary to get what you want and deserve.
5. “I’m proud of my effort on this project.”
We don’t give ourselves enough credit. In a world where we’re taught to downplay our accomplishments and avoid taking up too much space, pausing to recognize our efforts can feel unnecessarily boastful.
Hear me loud and clear: you have every right to celebrate your success and achievements, and being proud of yourself is an incredible feeling. And you don’t have to celebrate in silence, either.
1:1s with your manager, performance reviews, and team meetings are great opportunities to draw attention to your wins and effort. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a pat on the back, especially in team meetings where your teammates might not realize how much effort truly went into a project.
6. “I won’t be able to make the meeting. Can you provide me with a recap afterward?”
Successful women know they must ruthlessly prioritize their schedule, and sometimes that includes turning down meeting invitations and removing themselves from projects where they know their team can cover the work without them.
Speaking from experience, I often feel guilty when I turn down a meeting (who gave me the authority to do such a thing?), but the reality is that sometimes it’s necessary. Other priorities (including responsibilities outside of work) may be at the top of the list, and that’s perfectly acceptable. Letting your teammates know you can’t make a meeting but would like a recap afterward conveys that you still care about the topics being discussed without needing to be directly involved.
7. “I appreciate you taking the time to chat today.”
It’s tempting to apologize for asking coworkers for their time, especially when calendars are jam-packed. You might feel guilty for claiming an open time slot between meetings, but if it’s for a good reason, there’s no need to feel bad about it.
Using the phrase, “I appreciate you taking the time to chat today,” lets others know that you value their time without being overly apologetic. Thanking others for their time is a polite way to claim time for an important and necessary conversation that’s relevant to your workload.
8. “Thanks for your patience!”
Unless it’s explicitly written in your company policies or you have an agreement with your team, there technically aren’t any requirements around when you must respond to an email or chat. So what you might consider a late reply might not be late. And perhaps the other items on your to-do list took precedence.
No matter the circumstances, using the phrase, “Thanks for your patience!” is a great way to remove the self-penalization of late responses. This is an easy and quick swap for the oh-so-popular “Sorry for the delay!” note we’ve all sent.
9. “Reach out if you have any questions or concerns.”
You don’t have to explain or ask if your ideas make sense. We all have great ideas to share. Rather than worrying about whether the way you verbalized your thoughts made sense, encouraging questions opens up a two-way discussion between you and your colleagues.
Share your points (either verbally or in written format) and end with the phrase, “Reach out if you have any questions or concerns,” to wrap up the conversation and signal that you’re done sharing.
Successful women in the workplace stand confidently behind their ideas while offering an opportunity to provide additional context if needed—no more overthinking, overexplaining, or self-doubting.
10. “I appreciate your feedback, and I’ll consider it.”
Feedback helps us grow and evolve, and the most successful businesswomen seek feedback, consider it, and implement change where necessary. That said, not all pieces of feedback are worthy of action, and sometimes it requires time to digest and absorb that information.
Maybe your teammate reaches out to let you know that you’ve come across as passive-aggressive in a couple of emails lately. In a situation like this, it can be easy to get defensive. Instead, take the feedback in and respond with the phrase, “I appreciate your feedback, and I’ll consider how I might phrase things differently.”
Listen actively even when feedback is hard to hear, and show appreciation for the person who gave the feedback. Commit to reflecting on it even if you decide no further action is needed.