Communication is key to leadership effectiveness – both as a team leader and a team member. This tongue-in-cheek article provides coaching on how what you say is interpreted by others.

If you’re looking for ways to assert power over other people, and in the process, very likely annoy or undermine them, try the following tips.

Conversely, if you’re hoping not to annoy or undermine other people, avoid talking this way:

1. “I don’t need all the details. Let’s just get to the bottom line.”

You imply that others are quibblers and small-minded technicians, while deflecting the possible need to master complicated details yourself.

2. “Well, these are the facts.”

You emphasize that you attend to hard facts, while implying that others are distracted by prejudice, sentiment, and assumption.

3. “You might be right.”

You seem open-minded while simultaneously undermining someone else’s authority and credibility.

4. “I’m wondering about ____. Pat, please get back to us on this.”

You demonstrate your habit of reasoned decision-making, while making Pat (who may or may not actually report to you) do the necessary work and report back.

5. “You did a great job on that, Pat!”

You show a positive attitude, while showing that you’re in the position to judge and condescend to Pat.

6. “I think what Pat is trying to say is…”

You show that you’re a good listener and give credit to others, while demonstrating that you can take Pat’s simple thought further than Pat could.

7. “I can see why you might think that.” Variant: “I used to think that, too.”

You sound sympathetic, while indicating that you’ve moved far ahead in understanding.

As I read this list, I realize that a person could say all these things without being undermining. A lot depends on context and motivation. Still, it’s useful to think about how your seemingly helpful comment might strike another person in the room!