Why don’t we say things to make our lives easier? Why can’t we get over our egos and just come out and level with the people that are in our lives–our loved ones, our co-workers, and our acquaintances? Here are the things you should say, and say often. I’ve noticed that my most healthy relationships are predicated and defined by the kind of positive reinforcing action I take and the words I utter. These are the things you should say, often.
I learned this from my wife who I deeply respect and who is wise beyond her years – and later from a female team member who I have esteemed regard towards. Sometimes, people come to you to vent, and it’s not always meant to get a response or have your opinion. All they want you to say is, “I understand” and nod. They don’t need your advice because they already know the answer. They know how to handle a situation. They know how to respond. They just need to vent and you need to let them vent.
2. “I don’t know”
These words are powerful. They can actually give you credibility. You don’t know everything. And it’s okay to say you don’t know. But take the time to compose your answer, do the research. It’s better to say you don’t know and figure it out than to give the wrong answer. To clarify, you do need to figure out the answer or at least make an effort to do so.
3. “I’m sorry…” (and mean it)
We live in a society where saying you’re sorry is admitting guilt, or worse, implying that you are not good at “x”. Get this out of your head and get it out fast. Saying you’re sorry shows that you know when you’ve messed up and that you care enough to apologize. Be introspective enough to realize that to mistake is to be human and it’s part of life. The point is that you can own up to something and apologize for it.
4. “Why do you think that?”
Asking someone why they feel or think a certain way will do one thing above all else. It will help you find out what their motivation might be. When I disagree with someone, I find it absolutely amazing sometimes what their answer to this question is. Typically they’re anxious about something they don’t understand or something they may have misunderstood. Other times, I find out things I may have not been aware of by simply asking this question. Instead of getting defensive it helps to find out why the other person has a different outlook than you do.
5. “Let’s go get lunch/dinner.”
Once a week, I try and have lunch with a few people from my team outside of the office. I try to mix people from different teams. This is my way of fostering “outside of work” dialogue. I deliberately try and set the tone by ensuring we don’t discuss anything work-related. This is a great opportunity for you to find out how people are doing and getting a little break in your day.
6. “Good job!”
I’ve often written about the advantages of commending people for doing a great job. I love doing this both in my personal and professional life. Even my brother, who is a doctor in his thirties, regularly gets a tip of the hat and a pat on the back from me. The notion of congratulating someone on a job well done – when it’s deserved – is worth more you can imagine.
7. “That was the best decision I could have made at the time.”
Whenever you make decisions, you are hopefully making them with all the resources you have available to you. And sometimes, you get it wrong. Really, really wrong. Learn from these occasions but don’t obsessively beat yourself up from it. Learn and move on and try not to repeat the mistake again. It is always good to be introspective and challenge yourself to think about your own intentions. But know that it will be debilitating for you to allow past decisions that turned sour to affect your future decisions.
8. “Let’s travel…”
We don’t travel nearly as much as we should. Everyone should be traveling and doing a lot of it. It’s great to change your perspective and get a sense of how people in other countries live, what is important to them, what they like, etc. If you can’t afford to travel, do things in your own city. I’m willing to bet there are tons of touristy and non-touristy things to do in your own city that you’ve never done.
9. “I’ll have a salad and a water.”
This one is tough even for me because I love my burgers. Plus, I live on the West Coast so there’s always an In & Out around the corner. On the topic of addictions in a documentary, I once heard someone say that “food is the most difficult ‘drug’ to give up.” I can appreciate the struggle. But eating healthily boosts your performance mentally and emotionally. Eat to live and not the other way around. Focusing on your diet may be one of the lowest-hanging fruits when it comes to improving your overall health and performance.
10. “I believe in you.”
No matter who is in your life, they want to hear this and you need to say this to the people around you. This is perhaps one of the most encouraging things you can say to someone to empower them. Emboldening people around you, feeding their nerves, and growing their audacity is a two-way street. The more people you enable, the more you will fuel your personal growth as those sentiments will be returned.
11. “I trust in you/your judgement.”
People want to earn your trust the same way you want to earn theirs. Telling and reminding people that you trust them and their decisions will do wonders for their self esteem. My goal is to at least say this 3 times per day to my wife, my team, my family, my vendors, etc. Remember that positive reinforcement is not something that is just good for your 2 year-old. It works for everyone.
12. “I got your back.”
In high school I had gotten in trouble for disagreeing with my football coach (I refuse to call it soccer). It was a fundamental difference in philosophy about how to treat other people. I still stand by my argument and believe I was right. But I came home to tell my father and he looked at me and said, “I got your back.” Later, one of my professional mentors said the same thing to me when I started my first major business fresh out of high school. I remember the impact of these words at both of those very pivotal moments in my life. In most cases, people just want to hear that they have someone who would go to battle with them. Of all the things you can say to people around you, say this one statement the most.