If you use any of these 9 phrases, you have 'better etiquette skills' than most: Public speaking expert

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Actions may speak louder than words, but words still mattera lot. People can get easily offended, and if you rush around like most folks, it's easy to say the wrong thing in the wrong way.

As a public speaking expert, one thing I focus on is teaching good speech manners. There are nine phrases in particular that instantly show appreciation and respect.

If you use any of them every day, you have better etiquette skills than most people:

1. "What I'm hearing you say is ..."

People don't expect you to agree with everything they say. But they do want to know they've been heard and understood.

Use this phrase to clear your mind and confirm that you did consider their words before responding. If they spoke in a vague way the first time, you'll give them a chance to focus their thoughts and contribute more meaningfully to the conversation. 

2. "You may be right."

This phrase helps pave the way for disagreement, as in: "You might be right, but let's experiment with this new idea this time."

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It's also helpful for responding to off-topic comments and remarks from hyperactive colleagues who talk too much. No one likes to be negated, and a simple affirmation allows conversations to proceed without disharmony. 

3. "You were right, I was wrong."

This phrase is a gold star of conversational selflessness for two reasons:

  1. It's impossible to say these words unless you mean them.
  2. They're music to people's ears.

It is a great tool for defusing tension, clearing the slate, and earning respect. Surrender your ego to win the bigger fight for more productive, authentic relationships.

4. "Thank you for doing this ..."  

Old-school, elegant and simple. In a world where gratitude, respect and acknowledgement are hard to come by, it pays to be generous with praise.

If you want to encourage good behavior, force yourself to acknowledge it when you see it.

5. "I'll leave you to it."

Sometimes the hardest and most helpful thing you can do is overcome your impulse to control.

If someone is chopping carrots (rather than landing a plane), offer this simple gesture of trust — especially if your first thought is that you have a better technique. Say it like you mean it, and do it with a smile.

6. "Can you help me with something?"

No one likes to be barked at or ordered around, but most of us enjoy being asked for help.

Note the difference between saying, "Take out the garbage," versus, "Hey, I'm overwhelmed. Can I ask you to help me by taking out the garbage?"

7. "Your [hair/shirt/tie, etc.] looks so nice today!"

Don't lie, but do look for the good. People like compliments, even when they act like they don't.

We're all aging, we're all stressed, we all worry that we forgot something about our appearance. It's nice to hear that we did something right once in a while.

8. "That's interesting."

Even the melodic, prosodic flow of these words demands a slow-down, a bow to the speaker of sorts, before the conversation continues. It's an acknowledgement that something was said, heard and considered.

9. Say nothing at all.

When someone says something rude or ignorant and you're dying to lash back, remember the power of "I'm rubber and you're glue." Be rubber. Take a deep breath. Chalk the words up as somebody else's issue and walk away.

John Bowe is a speech trainer, award-winning journalist, and author of "I Have Something to Say: Mastering the Art of Public Speaking in an Age of Disconnection."  He has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, GQ, McSweeney's, This American Life, and many others. Visit his website here and follow him on LinkedIn.

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