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9 Phrases for Building Relationships at Work

Updated: Mar 14

Whether you're collaborating closely on projects together, passing projects off, or simply brushing shoulders your coworkers have a bigger impact on your life than you might realize.

An example of a professional relationship at work, two people high-fiving while sitting at a desk in an office

No matter where you work, knowing how to build relationships at work is important. And while it takes more than the "right" phrases to build a relationship, these pocket phrases can help.

1. Validate & Empower: “That sounds really frustrating. What can I do to help?”

When you show empathy by acknowledging and validating your colleague's emotions, you strengthen your relationship. And, by asking someone what they need for support, you empower them to come up with the solutions themselves while showing that you’re there for them.

Sometimes we might give solutions before someone is ready to hear them—and you might be surprised to hear that you can support them just by listening and understanding their perspective.

2. Clarify & Collaborate: “Do you want me to follow your instructions or help you come up with ideas?

Collaborating on projects can feel like a nightmare when roles and responsibilities are unclear. Setting expectations early on is a great way to clarify roles, and asking a question like this shows that you’re flexible, open, and interested in their needs for the project.

3. Acknowledge & Build: “Yes! I love that idea… and I want to add…”

Sometimes, we tend to provide input or shift ideas without fully acknowledging what the other person has said. When we do this, it can send a message of rejection without us intending to—especially when working in teams with trauma that might lean towards either/or thinking.

Making a small shift that adds in a statement that communicates “Yes, I hear you!” can make a big difference.

4. Express Gratitude: “Thank you for doing that. I really appreciate it.”

People want to feel seen and appreciated. When you take a moment to express gratitude when a colleague helps you or the community, you make your workplace a more appreciative place.

The simple act of saying thank you strengthens the bond between team members and contributes to a positive work environment—and, it can make you feel more grateful!

5. Thoughtful Follow-Up: “How did it go? I’ve been thinking of you.”

By following up on things your colleagues have mentioned in previous conversations, you show that you have a genuine interest in them, including their lives, ideas, and feelings. Remembering and referencing personal details demonstrates that you value your colleagues as individuals, fostering a sense of being heard and understood.

6. Positive Gossip: “I love working with her. She’s so thoughtful and creative!”

Positive gossip. if you speak well of other people it supports and uplifts the person you’re speaking about, the person you’re speaking to, and yourself.

When we speak of others, those we speak to tend to assume we speak the same way about them: whether positive or negative. And, the way we talk about others out loud often reflects our attitude toward ourselves.

So, focusing on spreading positive gossip can improve the confidence, trust, and safety at your workplace by uplifting individuals and fostering a supportive atmosphere.

7. Celebrate Success: “Way to go! I’m so happy for you.”

At work, we’re often so focused on our future goals that we overlook our achievements in the present. By acknowledging and celebrating your colleagues’ successes and wins, you can build a sense a culture of mutual support. Sharing in the joy of others’ successes (and sometimes reminding them that they’ve had a win) can create a positive and uplifting work environment.

8. Affirm Self-Worth: “Congratulations! You deserve it.”

In a workplace affected by trauma, individuals may struggle with feelings of undeserving success. When celebrating with coworkers, a statement that says “you deserve good things,” can be simultaneously uncomfortable, comforting, and healing.

9. Express Trust: “I trust your judgement.”

When you explicitly tell a colleague, "I trust your judgment," you empower them to make decisions and prove that you value their opinions and have confidence in their decision-making abilities. While trust is built on actions and not just phrases, this can be a powerful phrase when paired with other strategies.

Final Thoughts: Building Relationships at Work

Wanting to improve your relationships at work is a great place to be! Still, building relationships at work will take more than reading this blog or using these phrases.

If you want to strengthen your relationships at work, you'll need to combine practical knowledge with useful skills, which you can learn in our Trauma Informed Masterclass!


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