Three Tactical Phrases that Will Help You Have a Better Life

As an executive coach, I work with many people who are trying to figure out how to have better, less irritable, and less argumentative communications at work.

Many of my clients come for coaching help on this issue because they must navigate a workplace with stressed out, anxious people, including their bosses, who can often be pretty tired and crabby. Deadlines, making their numbers by the end of the month, fears about job loss, and a 24/7 workplace culture of accessibility take their toll on everyone, and contribute to pressure-cooker environments at many workplaces. Many of my clients tell me they feel out of control and worried at work. Maybe you do too. If so, you are not alone. It is likely that others at work feel the same way, and that includes your boss. If your workplace is stressful, what can you do to have a better workplace experience? How can you talk with people effectively to do what you need to accomplish with people who are, let’s face it, in a bad mood for good reasons? Try these three tactics to help navigate interactions at your stressed-out workplace.

Sounds like you need / feel / said … Did I get that right?”

This is a question that helps you to clarify what the other person wants, needs, or said that was unclear to you. Instead of guessing, try this phrase to get greater clarity about the task or operation or intervention that needs to be done before you spend time doing it and possibly doing it wrong. The phrase, “Did I get that right?” is a great way to get anyone to restate or rephrase a need or request that was unclear without generating hostility. If you were to say “I don’t understand what you meant” or “You are not being clear” there is more of a chance that the other person will take offense, experience frustration with you, or blame you for failing to get it right because those statements are more confrontational. People who feel heard can problem solve better. Try this phrase instead and see if it helps even with crabby people!

“What do you need from me to make this go better?”

This phrase helps the other person feel listened to and supported. In an anxious, stressful workplace, you can be sure that everyone needs more support. Another good phrase that also helps the other person feel supported is simply: “How can I help you?” If you ask this question, the other person will usually feel a sense of relief and more in control because at least YOU are listening and caring. Try this question with co-workers and bosses who are stressed out and see if it helps them calm down.

“Help me understand more about what should be done…”

This phrase sets a positive tone for a conversation that might be difficult. Instead of blaming the other person by saying “You didn’t give me enough information,” you draw the person out by asking for additional information. The best approach with a difficult person or conversation is to be curious. When you start off the conversation with curiousness the other person does not feel personally assaulted. Another helpful phrase is “Can you say more about that?” or “Can you tell me more?” All of these phrases work to draw the person out without making him or her feel blamed for failing to provide enough information or mentoring for you to do the job you need to do. Instead, you are encouraging to the person to help you understand the assignment better.

Try out these phrases at work and use them at home too. They work incredibly well to help people who interact with you to feel supported and heard. When that happens, they will interact with you in a more positive way and your life will go better as a result.

Career 2.0: Finding Your Way to Your Next Career

What can you do to be sure that the new direction you are considering for your career will work out well for you?


There is a clear and simple method you can use to predict career success in your next act.

What are your AIMS?

To figure out the sweet spot for your career, think carefully about four key elements:

First, what are your Aptitudes?
Second, what are your strong Interests?
Third, where is there a Market need match?
Fourth, do you have the Skills you need?

Aptitudes, Interests, Market need and Skills are your AIMS.

Your Aptitudes

Most people who are mid-career have a good idea about what they do well, but sometimes they forget to factor in soft skills or people skills as valuable aptitudes. The ability to engage easily with other people, to read people well, or to draw people out are valuable skills, just as an innate sense of logic or math ability is an aptitude. The ability to stay focused for long periods of time or to predict the next social trend or popular music group constitute aptitudes as well. Make a list of your natural talents and ask close friends and family to add to your list of attributes and natural abilities. You want to shoot for a career that will play to your strengths.

Your Interests

Think of your strong interests as the driver or motivator for your work life. If you can be engaged in work that you enjoy thinking about, you will be happier. There are a number of different varieties of interests that can drive careers in a positive way.

Content area of interest

If all of the books, magazines, TV shows, radio programs, and blogs were available to you right now, what would you reach for first, second, third? What were your favorite classes in school? What are the classes you wish you could take? Think about the experiences you have enjoyed in your life. What you are innately interested in tells you about yourself and can indicate the content you will enjoy if you can have it in your work-life.


Some people enjoy games, gamesmanship, strategy, problem solving, and puzzle solving. Engaging in a particular process and getting better at it can be a motivator in your career and can indicate a good career direction or niche within an industry. If you enjoy process or strategy activities, look for activities in your industry that allow you to engage this intelligence. Whether you are designing events, trials, restaurants, or conferences, you will have fun doing an activity that engages your strong interest.


Some people are strongly goal or achievement oriented. Here the driver or motivator is getting to the finish line or getting a finished product. If that captures your interest, then work that allows you to engage in a project with an end you can be proud of will be a motivator. If it would feel really great to have a finished product – a device you helped to engineer, a bar or restaurant you designed, a construction project you have a hand in – factor that into your decisions about your future career.

Overarching Mission

People who are driven by an overarching mission care about making the world a better place and helping others. If this strong interest gets you up in the morning, you are more likely to be happy in the non-profit realm or another similar mission-driven career.

Other Strong Interests

There are other interests that drive careers as well: a thirst for money (which sometimes also translates to a need for security), a thirst for control, power, fame, or prestige. There are people who love learning for the sake of learning. All of these strong interests can motivate people to achieve in their careers.


If you do not think you have any strong interests, consider this: do you care more than anything about having a life that allows you time with your family and friends and outside interests? If that describes you, then your strong interest is probably a lifestyle or a work-life balance that satisfies your needs. If what you do at work matters less than the opportunity to have a life outside of work, then you need to find work that allows you to have a balanced life.

Market Need

Reality bites. But you have to be pragmatic. If your greatest excitement is something the rest of the world is minimally interested in, your chances for success are slim. If the market wants grilled artisan chicken and you want to give the world a double-fried chicken patty, maybe you better re-think your plan. McDonald’s seems to be learning that lesson the hard way. If you watch trends, follow market needs, and position your new business venture in the mainstream of the public’s felt needs, your business should do reasonably well. If you are a seer and you can predict where the market has an unmet need, you might be able to ride the crest of a wave that is coming. Try to minimize risk if you can when you start your new venture or move into your new career by assessing market need.

Skills Match

Do you have the skills and credentials to make this transition a success? I am sometimes surprised by the way my clients in transition think about the skill set issue. They tell me they know that they could so this new job even though they do not have the requisite experience, credentials, or acquired skills. It’s true that the professionals I work with often could make a major transition to a new field and do well because they are smart, capable, and quick learners. That’s not the problem. The problem is one of perception and willingness of people in the new field to accept someone without the requisite skill set. Just because you really could do this new job doesn’t mean the world will let you do it. Be sure your skills match up with the needs of the job.

When you satisfy all four elements: Aptitude, Interest, Market need, and Skills match, you are aiming in the right direction and you will be happy with your career transition.