The way your teammates talk reveals their temperament. And THAT unlocks the magic words to use with them—no matter what you’re trying to say.

Sure, what you learned as a toddler is still true. Please is the universal magic word. 

But it’s not the only one. 

Your temperament determines another list of magic words that are uniquely gratifying to you. So if you want to know what to say to genuinely celebrate an employee or gently critique a colleague, first figure out their temperament. 

Simply listening to them is often enough to form a pretty good guess. 

Your co-worker might be YELLOW if they say things like…

  • “You won’t believe what just happened!”
  • “I’m sure things will get better next quarter.”
  • “Want to grab lunch together?”

Your co-worker might be RED if they say things like…

  • “I already took care of that.”
  • “Enough debate. Let’s decide.”
  • “Here’s what we need to do.”

Your co-worker might be BLUE if they say things like…

  • “I want to review it one more time, then I’ll send it to you.”
  • “Have we thought about… What’s our plan B?”
  • “I noticed a mistake on page three.”

Your co-worker might be GREEN if they say things like…

  • “I agree with whatever you think.”
  • “Sure, I can take care of that for you.”
  • “I wonder if there’s some middle ground we can agree on?”

Once you’ve identified someone’s temperament, you’ve unlocked the kind of words they want to hear. 

A YELLOW co-worker craves words that communicate…

  • Approval – “Your energy in that meeting kept the whole team engaged.”
  • Attention – “I have ten minutes; tell me all about it!”
  • Acceptance – “Will you sit in on this discussion? I’d love your input.”

 A RED co-worker craves words that communicate…

  • Credit for Work – “Thanks for handling that. I know it wasn’t really your responsibility.”
  • Loyalty – “I’ll back up whatever choice you think is best.”
  • Sense of Control – “I’ll get this back to you by EOD, like you asked.”

A BLUE co-worker craves words that communicate…

  • Sensitivity – “You can take some time to think about it before you get back to me.”
  • Support – “You have a lot on your plate right now. How about we skip our weekly meeting?” 
  • Safety – “I didn’t want to mention this in front of anyone else.”

A GREEN co-worker craves words that communicate…

  • Respect – “What do you think? I don’t want to make a decision before you’ve weighed in.” 
  • Lack of Stress – “There’s no rush. Let’s table this discussion for another day.” 
  • Feeling of Worth – “We need someone with your skills on this project. Will you consider joining us?” 

Reading through those lists, you probably resonated with one more than the others. The same will be true of your colleagues. They are wired for an outsized positive response to certain words. The trick to knowing what those magic words might be for them is listening for their temperament.   

Do you know your temperament already? Has a colleague or boss ever said something particularly meaningful to you? We want to hear all about it! 

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