Words matter. How you choose them and how you use them makes a big difference in the way people perceive you.
Researchers have found that there are certain words, phrases and other ways of communicating that can make others think more highly of you, improve your reputation, and help create a more empathetic and compassionate workplace.
Here are 13 communication mistakes that the most likable people always avoid:
1. Not greeting people
What to do: Say "Hello," "Good morning," or ask "How are you?"
Greeting people, even in a casual way, pays off big time. Nowadays, many people feel that their coworkers aren't civil or friendly enough. By being polite and starting the conversation off with a bit of humanity, you stand out as a warm and friendly person.
The same applies to emails and text messages: Open with a pleasant greeting before getting to the point.
2. Doing all the talking
What to do: Don't just use words. Make sure you listen, too.
Psychologist Carl Rogers says active listening is at the heart of every healthy relationship. People think positively about people who take the time to listen.
It's also healthy for the mind: A recent study found that being listened to helps prevent cognitive decline.
3. Not being present
What to do: Use body language to show engagement.
According to several studies, most of the time we aren't listening as well as we think. So putting real effort into it can make you stand out.
Engage the speaker — make eye contact, nod and be ready to respond. In other words, let them see that you're paying attention.
4. Not inviting the other person to elaborate
What to do: Say "That's interesting. Tell me more!"
This is another way to engage while you listen. Again, we all like to talk, so it's a gift when people actually invite us to do so.
Another benefit: The more you let people talk, the more you can learn from them and about them, which can be helpful in winning their favor.
5. Lacking curiosity
What to do: Ask questions.
Instead of trying to say something impressive, try asking something specific to the conversation you're having. A 2017 Harvard University study found that when you ask people questions, they think of you as more likable.
6. Refusing to admit fault
What to do: If you were wrong, say "I was wrong."
This is one of the most powerful ways to build credibility. In one survey, 84% of U.S. employees said it is important for managers to admit mistakes, but only 51% said their managers did so.
Managers or not, all too often we try to cover up our mistakes. But don't kid yourself — usually people have noticed them by the time you have! By admitting your errors, you show you're honest and trustworthy.
7. Not giving acknowledgement or compliments
What to do: Say "You're right!" or "Great idea!"
Being complimented feels the same to the brain as receiving a monetary award, according to one study. And since we're wired to seek out pleasant sensations, people are likely to repeatedly seek out people who compliment them.
8. Not letting people know when they've helped you
What to do: Say "I'm glad you told me about ...," "I took your suggestion and did...," or "Because of you, I was able to ..."
It's important to validate people and their contributions. If they give you good advice or input, they love to hear that you actually used them.
Who doesn't like knowing that they made an impact on someone, whether it's suggesting a great lunch spot or giving career tips?
9. Only caring about your own opinions
What to do: Ask, "What do you think?"
After you've put forth your opinion on something, flip it around and draw your listener in by asking for their thoughts. This can help with team-building, while also immediately making the other person feel more positive about you.
10. Saying "Are you sure you can do it?"
What to do: Help people believe in their own abilities.
Validation is key to helping people improve themselves, so don't question if someone has the chops to manage something. Tell them you believe in them, and they'll believe in themselves. They'll also remember that you're part of the reason why.
11. Ignoring those who seem left out
What to do: Say "Let's hear from…"
At meetings, there are always the quiet ones — the ones who may have ideas, but who are rarely heard. They're often drowned out or intimidated by the big talkers.
By asking publicly for their input and by engaging them, your entire team could hear some great ideas — and you will gain grateful allies.
12. Always being negative
What to do: Use positive words like "excited," "wonderful" or "admirable."
Here's an interesting fact: Half of all the words we use to describe emotions are negative, according to a survey by a linguist at Penn State. Differentiate yourself from others by communicating in encouraging and positive ways.
13. Failing to express gratitude
What to do: Say "Thank you."
These two little words carry a lot of weight in relationships. According to a publication by Harvard Medical School, managers who thank their teams may find that their employees are more motivated.
Giving thanks can boost your feelings about a relationship, too. One study found that partners who express gratitude feel happier and more comfortable in their relationship.
With that in mind, thank you for reading this.
Kathy and Ross Petras are the brother-and-sister co-authors of "Awkword Moments: A Lively Guide to the 100 Terms Smart People Should Know," "You're Saying It Wrong" and "That Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means." They have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Harvard Business Review. Follow them on Twitter @kandrpetras.
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