Power Phrases

By Cheryl Viola, Executive Director, MBA, October 26, 2021

Words are powerful and can create connections or put distance between people. Good leaders spend time refining their communication style. Good communication skills are essential for fostering strong relationships with team members and customers.

The words you use matter. Author Meryl Runion said that a power phrase is using the perfect words to say it right and get the results you want. The result comes when you say what you mean and mean what you say. Having an arsenal of power phrases in your toolbox will help get your point across clearly without miscommunication.

“Words can inspire and words can destroy. Choose your words well.” Robin Sharma

8 Power Phrases

“I’m Sorry”

We are all human, we all make mistakes. Admitting an error with humility helps the team to foster a culture that builds each other. Sometimes we use the term “I’m sorry” too often, often resulting in a form of excuse. Using “I’m sorry…” in the right context shows that mistakes are natural and they provide a learning opportunity for improvement.

“Leaders who apologize demonstrate personal accountability.” Skip Prichard

“Tell me More”

This is an open-ended statement that demonstrates listening skills and an openness to new ideas.

“What’s Working”

If you have team members that are frustrated and complaining focus on what is positive.

“How can I be of help?”

Often when asked the person just needs someone to listen. Be willing to offer help and then follow through.

“Tell me what you’re hearing from customers.”

Customers are the lifeblood of an organization. A good leader is listening to customers directly and talking to employees who have a vast amount of information about them.

“If you don’t listen to your customers, someone else will.” – Sam Walton

“Thank you”

Thank you is a power phrase to replace “I’m Sorry” Instead of saying I am sorry, saying thank you for your patience strikes a more positive tone.

Recently I was running late for a meeting. I didn’t allow enough travel time to arrive early. Our first reaction is to say “I’m sorry…” then we go into an explanation as to why we are late which starts the conversation off in a negative light. Instead, I chose to say “Thank you for your patience…” this started the tone with a positive and we were able to move on to the business at hand.

“Here’s what I can do…”

Instead of saying “I can’t” turn the negative into a positive and say “here’s what I can do for you…” Instead of declining a request, this focuses on the positive and that demonstrates that you are willing to find a workable solution as well as setting boundaries to what is feasible for your schedule.

I was in a committee meeting, and I knew that I had too much on my plate to do all the things that were needed.  As I tried to set boundaries I said, “I can’t…” One of the committee members asked, “Cheryl, what can you do?” My intention of setting boundaries was noble, I knew that my schedule did not allow for more to be added. In hindsight, it would have been much better to use this power phrase of “here’s what I can do…” by choosing these words it would have diffused a tense situation and ended on a positive note.

“I’ll find out…”

We can’t know everything. When we don’t know the answer, it gives reassurance to the other person that we care enough to go one step further by saying “I’ll find out…”

Leadership Tip: Asking for more information opens the door of opportunity.

The power of communication is measured by the results it obtains.  By making small shifts in the words we use, being more precise and action-oriented in your language can make a difference in clarity and how you’re perceived.