New York Etiquette Guide

How to Get Your Point Across Without Offending Others

Posted on Tue, Jul 27, 2010


Business Meeting

by Jeremy Willinger

As much as you may get along with and share the same opinions as your coworkers, there will inevitably be times when you do not. Yet, what makes the difference in not only how you are perceived in the office but your future working relationships as well is how you choose to deal with these conflicts. The main takeaway is to learn how not to offend others. When a coworker feels slighted, it takes time and energy to smooth things over—and there is no guarantee of a full recovery. 

Acknowledging the other point of view is of primary importance because it shows that while you may have a different opinion, you are not discounting theirs. Responses such as, “I appreciate your contribution,” or “That’s a good idea; however, we may have to go in another direction,” do not diminish another person’s ideas, but still communicate the point that an alternative tract will probably be selected. 

Many times, the things that can get us in trouble at work are the subtle comments or off-hand remarks that we can’t anticipate will have a negative effect on others. Certain potentially offending topics like religion, politics, and relationships should be avoided at all costs. It is also wise to pause before forwarding any cartoons or jokes, as you never know what may be an emotional trigger for a coworker.  

If you do happen to read a message that gets you riled up, or if you take part in a contentious exchange, always consider the aftermath. Never send any message or make a phone call in the heat of an angry moment—it is better to take a minute to cool off and reconsider your communication. When stating your point via email, it helps to read the message aloud before sending, to ensure the tone is appropriate.

Often, a sincere apology is (with luck) all that is needed. By acknowledging that you made a mistake, or merely offering to clear the air, you extend an olive branch that demonstrates your maturity and ability to rise above conflict for the sake of a stable working environment.  

Much like paying taxes, disagreements in the workplace are inevitable. What happens after a flare-up is your chance to prove to yourself and your coworkers how accommodating and professional you truly are. By keeping this in mind, you raise not only your standard of professional etiquette, but that of all those around you as well. 

If you disagree with anything written above, please offer your inoffensive comments below.

Tags: business manners, office problems, workplace etiquette, business etiquette expert