Nine Things To Say Everyday

Posted: January 19, 2013

The Friendly City Files

Want to make a huge difference in someone’s life?

Here are things you should say every day to coworkers, colleagues, family members, friends — and people you don’t know:

“Here’s what I’m thinking.”
If you’re in charge — at work or at home — that doesn’t mean you’re smarter, savvier or more insightful than everyone else. Back up your statements and decisions. Justify with logic, not with position or authority.

Though taking time to explain will open your decisions to criticism, it will also open your decisions to improvement. Authority can make you “right,“ but collaboration makes everyone right — and makes everyone pull together.

“I was wrong.”
When you realize you’ve made the wrong decision, taken the wrong step, or just screwed up, don’t sit quietly hoping other people won’t notice. They always do. Bite the bullet and say you were wrong.

You won’t lose respect — you’ll gain it.

“That was awesome.”
No one gets enough praise. Pick someone who does or did something well and say, “Wow, that was great how you ...”

And feel free to go back in time. Saying, “I was thinking today about how well you took care of that last month ...” can make just as positive an impact now as it would have then. (It could even make a bigger impact, because it shows you still remember what happened last month — and you still think about it.)

Praise costs you nothing, but is priceless to the recipient. Start praising. The people around you will love you for it — and you’ll like yourself a little better, too.

“You’re welcome.”
Think about a time you gave a gift and the recipient seemed uncomfortable or awkward. Their reaction took away a little of the fun, right?

The same thing can happen when you are thanked or complimented or praised. Don’t spoil the moment or the fun for the other person. The spotlight may make you feel uneasy or insecure — it definitely does me — but all you have to do is make eye contact and say, “Thank you.” Or make eye contact and say, “You’re welcome. I was glad to do it.”

Never let thanks, congratulations, or praise be all about you.

“Can you help me?”
When you need help, regardless of the type of help you need or the person you need it from, just say, sincerely and humbly, “Can you help me?”

I promise you’ll get help. And, in the process, you’ll show vulnerability, respect and a willingness to listen — which are all qualities of a great friend.

“I’m sorry.”
We all make mistakes, so we all have things we need to apologize for: words, actions, omissions, failing to step up, step in, show support ...

Say you’re sorry.

But never follow an apology with a disclaimer such as “But I was really mad, because ...” or “But I did think you were ...” or any statement that in any way places even the smallest amount of blame back on the other person.

Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry and take all the blame. Then you both get to make the freshest of starts.

“Can you show me?”
Advice is temporary; knowledge is forever. When you ask to be taught or shown, several things happen: You implicitly show you respect the person giving the advice; you show you trust his or her experience, skill and insight; and you get to better assess the value of the advice.

Don’t just ask for input. Ask to be taught or trained or shown.

Then you both win.

“Let me give you a hand.”
Many people see asking for help as a sign of weakness, so many people hesitate to ask for help. Yet we all need help.

When you offer, don’t just say, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Mostly, you’ll get a version of the reflexive “No, I’m just looking,” reply people give sales clerks.

Instead, be specific. Say, “I’ve got a few minutes. Can I help you finish that?” Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous. Then actually roll up your sleeves and help.

Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. If you’re upset, frustrated or angry, stay quiet. You may think venting will make you feel better, but it never does.

That’s especially true where work is concerned. Criticize a coworker or employee in a group setting and eventually he’ll appear to get over it …  but he never will. That’s even more true where family is concerned: Once said, some words are never forgotten.

Before you speak, spend more time considering how the other person will think and feel than you do evaluating whether what you say makes sense. Be quiet until you know what to say – and what the real effect your words will have.

Jeff Haden lives in Harrisonburg and is a bestselling ghostwriter and columnist for Inc. Magazine. He can be reached at

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