11 Things Emotionally Intelligent People Say at Work

words out of mouthDr. Travis Bradberry published the article The 11 Things Smart People Won’t Say (2015), where he listed and described why smart people refrain from using certain phrases in the workplace, because these words diminish others’ perception of them. Unfortunately, many employees may not be aware of the negative impact of these sentences or whether they are using them in conversation around the office. For those who may have overlooked this article, I list those words that can undermine the most knowledgeable, talented, and productive employees who use them.

  • It’s not fair.
  • This is the way it’s always been done.
  • No problem.
  • I think …/This may be a silly idea …/I’m going to ask a stupid question.
  • This will only take a minute.
  • I’ll try.
  • He’s lazy/incompetent/a jerk.
  • That’s not in my job description.
  • It’s not my fault.
  • I can’t.
  • I hate this job.

words out of mouth 2Some of these phrases are obvious in their abrasiveness; whereas, others are subtle. A response of “No problem,” as opposed to a kindly “You’re welcome,” or “My pleasure,” commonly heard from a Chick-Fil-A associate, can be more of an annoyance than a negative message. In my opinion, this list of “do-nots” are not what smart people practice but what emotionally intelligent people embrace, as I know several Mensa candidates with low emotional intelligence who continually choose from this list. Emotionally steady and astute employees carefully choose their words. Dr. Bradberry’s article begs the question, “What are the 11 things emotionally intellegient employees say at work?” What words do they use that promote creative thinking, problem-solving, accountability, and team-building?

Below would be my suggested words to frame conversation that builds a positive perception of your attitude and behaviors and empowers the organization.

  • How could we have changed the outcome?
  • What new way can we try?
  • You’re welcome!
  • Based on…observation, data, past experiences…I found…
  • When can I get [insert number] uninterrupted minutes of your time?
  • I will.
  • How can we make him/her more successful?
  • What can I do to help?
  • I take responsibility for…
  • I can.
  • What I like about my job is…

Where do your word choices land on the continuum of powerfully engaging to poorly enacted? Many factors, including stress and cultural influence, dictated where we are on this continuum in any moment. When stress is high, the filter between thoughts and words is usually thin. Stress does not absolve us of the responsibility to choose words wisely, and awareness of the powerful effect of certain words is the first step towards better choices that will show your personal best.


Bradberry, T. (2015). Eleven things smart people won’t say.  Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/travis-bradberry/11-things-smart-people-won-t-say.html

HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  

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