'It's not personal' + 5 other phrases to avoid in difficult conversations with your staff

Whether you're critiquing a colleague's work or firing a clinician who is difficult to work with, it can be hard to know exactly how to approach it. Here are six words and phrases to steer clear of, according to a June 21 article published in Harvard Business Review.

Six words and phrases to avoid:

1. "Clearly," "obviously" or "beyond doubt"
Don't assume your reasoning is obvious and that the person you're speaking with will clearly see your viewpoint or agree with you. Using these words takes the assumption that you're 100 percent right, which may not be a good start to a conversation.

2. "You always" or "you never"
Don't exaggerate by using hyperboles. In a conversation, it may lead the other person to say, "That's not true," and follow that up with every occasion that counters your claim. If you want someone to start something or stop it, that should be the focus.

3. "You should be doing this."
Telling someone what they should do can make a person feel judged and may imply there is just one path to get desired results. Phrases like, "You might consider," or, "Have you thought?" may open the conversation to more possibilities.

4. "You make me so angry when you do that."
Allowing your emotions to drive what you say might be counterproductive. If a colleague frequently interrupts you, you may want to say, "You make me so angry when you interrupt me." However, this can spark an argument. Consider saying, "Could you please not interrupt me until I'm finished?" or say nothing at all and move on with your discussion.

5. "Unprofessional," "unethical" or "wrong"
You may believe what someone is doing falls in line with the definitions of unethical behavior or unprofessional. If you label someone as one of these words, they may become defensive. Humans have a deep need to see themselves as moral and using one of these words may threaten the way they see themselves, the article said. Instead, suggest that the problem behavior "detracts from our mission" or is "inconsistent with our core values."

6. "It's not personal."
People usually say "It's not personal," or, "Don't take it personally," when they subconsciously know it's personal for the other person, the article said. If someone is hurt or angry by what you have said or done, telling them it's not personal adds insult to injury. Acknowledge that it may be personal to them, or don't say anything about "personal" at all.

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