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Business English Vocabulary: Nine Key Phrases To Show Empathy In The Workplace

Business English vocabulary: Nine key phrases to show empathy in the workplace

Empathy: it’s not just a buzzword. In today’s fast-paced business world, building strong relationships with your colleagues is paramount. 

Empathy fosters connections, leading to improved teamwork and more fruitful business outcomes. When your words reflect understanding and care, it creates an atmosphere where your colleagues feel valued, understood, and motivated. And this isn’t just about being polite. It’s about using business English vocabulary to bridge gaps, address concerns, and build rapport.

So, let’s look at some key phrases you can use for relationship-building in the workplace. 

Business English vocabulary: 10 key phrases to show empathy

1. “I understand where you’re coming from.”

Understanding different perspectives is a crucial skill when it comes to workplace relationships. It allows you to recognize and validate a colleague’s viewpoint, which is pivotal in fostering trust and understanding. Whether it’s a disagreement over a project strategy or a suggestion for workflow improvements, this phrase conveys a willingness to listen. It’s the equivalent of saying, “I see your perspective, and I value it,” and it’s a helpful phrase to use to move a discussion forward. 

2. “Thank you for sharing that with me.”

The workplace can sometimes blur the lines between professional and personal. So, how should you respond with empathy when a colleague opens up to you? For example, someone might share personal information related to a sickness absence, or they might be struggling to complete tasks due to a family situation. In these situations, it can be difficult to know what to do or say. This phrase can be used in almost any situation to create a safe space for honest dialogue. It also helps you to express gratitude for the trust that someone is showing in you, and reassure them that opening up was the right choice to make. 

 3. “How can I support you?”

When a colleague has shared a problem with you, what’s the next step? Offering genuine support is the backbone of a cohesive team. Instead of assuming what your colleague needs, offering unwanted advice, or turning the conversation on to your own experiences, this open-ended question is a great response. It creates a space where your colleague can express what they need from you, be it in terms of resources, time, or simply brainstorming. What’s more, it helps them to feel supported to overcome the challenge they’re facing. 

4. “That must be really tough.”

Validating someone’s feelings is a huge part of showing empathy. This isn’t just about recognizing someone’s struggles. It’s about acknowledging the emotional weight they’re carrying. When a team member faces a particularly grueling week or receives difficult feedback, this phrase can show them that you understand and sympathize with them – and sometimes, that kind of emotional support can make all the difference to your professional relationship. 

Two colleagues in a business setting. A woman in a gray dress stands by a desk holding a paper with charts, touching her ear thoughtfully. Beside her, a man in a blue shirt smiles, partially obscured by their in the foreground.

5. “We’re in this together.”

How can you express solidarity in the workplace? Often team projects, especially challenging ones, require a unified front. There might be one colleague carrying a heavier load, but you can offer support with this phrase. By emphasizing collective responsibility and camaraderie, you are ensuring no one feels isolated in their efforts.

6. “Can you help me understand your viewpoint better?”

In any workplace, conflicts are bound to arise. So, how can you navigate these moments with empathy and compassion? This phrase is useful, as it emphasizes a desire to understand more deeply, instead of directly disagreeing or dismissing a perspective. It’s a call for clarity while ensuring the conversation remains constructive. 

 7. “I appreciate the hard work you’ve put into this.”

Recognizing effort, especially in tasks that might not have yielded the desired results, is crucial to building strong workplace relationships. This phrase ensures that a colleague’s dedication doesn’t go unnoticed. When you acknowledge someone’s work, you are making them feel valued and appreciated. This way, they’ll be more likely to go the extra mile for you in the future. 

8. “Please, feel free to share any concerns you have with me.”

Sometimes, opening yourself up to negative feedback or criticism can feel scary. However, sturdy leaders want to hear where they’re going wrong. If you are striving for an environment where colleagues can voice their reservations or worries without fear, this phrase invites openness. It enables you to benefit from perspectives other than your own, get ahead of potential problems, and resolve any issues within the team before they affect projects that go beyond your department. 

9. “Mistakes happen. Let’s figure out the next steps together.”

People in every workplace make mistakes from time to time. But instead of placing blame when something goes awry, it’s important to learn from the process and move forward collectively. This phrase helps you to move away from a culture of personal responsibility and into a growth mindset, where mistakes are seen as opportunities for learning and personal growth.

How to practice communicating with empathy

Learning to converse with empathy, backed by a robust business English vocabulary, can set the tone for nurturing, positive, and productive work environments as you continue to interact and grow in your professional journey. 

Now you’ve got your phrases, you can practice using them in conversation with ELSA AI. Our AI tutor is a fantastic roleplay partner. Simply tell ELSA AI the situation you’d like to roleplay, eg ‘my colleague is telling me that he won’t meet his deadline because of some personal circumstances.’ 

Then, ELSA AI will create a conversational roleplay, allowing you to practice communicating with empathy and offering your coworker support. You’ll also receive personalized feedback after the roleplay on your pronunciation, grammar and business English vocabulary, highlighting errors and providing guidance on how you can improve your English skills. 

Useful further read: Ten business idioms to describe your colleagues in English

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