I’ve reached that weird stage in my life where I want the people around me to be happy and feel good about themselves. I’ve spent the majority of my life wanting people to think that I’m special. Flipping the script, and doing what I can to make other people feel special has taken some getting used to.
Perhaps the most effective exercise I’ve developed during this time is paying attention to the little words and phrases I’ve either heard or said that light people up. Then taking it one step further by incorporating them into my daily conversations.
The phrases below are simply a collection of phrases that people love to hear. They make people smile. They make me smile.
A little less than a year ago, I told Tom Kuegler (someone who I had spoken with only a handful of times prior) that I was having trouble keeping my anxiety under wraps. A few days after our conversation I received a message: “I’ve been thinking about you and I hope you are doing better.” I liked Tom prior to receiving this message, but after he sent it I loved him — and so did my wife. In one sentence I knew that he and I would be friends for a long time.
This is a bit of an extreme example, but if you are thinking about someone — let them know. The best part about this phrase is that it’s true. Every day we think about other people and telling them when we are can only strengthen a relationship. “I was thinking about you and it dawned on me that we haven’t spoken in a while.” “I’m so glad you called. I’ve been thinking of you.”
Before you attack me for saying this was for picking up friends not partners just hear me out. What I mean by “You look good” in this instance is happy, fit, relaxed.
“It’s been a while. You look good.” You can even pair it with the one above — “I’ve been thinking about you. You look good.” Women give each other compliments all the time. It’s OK for guys to do the same. As my friend Brian Pennie said, “Being told that I look good makes me feel gorgeous.”
“I’m curious about your experience with W.” “Can you tell me more about Z?” “I’d love to get your opinion on Y.” “Can I get your advice on Z?”
Most people love to share their experiences. They love to talk about their lessons learned. They love to know that their voice is respected and people appreciate their perspective. So when speaking to someone about a topic that is clearly important to them, ask them to share their thoughts. It’s a guaranteed way of making people think highly of you. Plus, friendships rarely fizzle out if you are making an effort to learn about the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas.
I don’t know about you, but I love to be told that I’m interesting. “Every time I’m with you I learn something new.” “That’s interesting. I never thought of it like that before.” These phrases send me flying.
Give them a shot for yourself. The next time someone tells you something interesting fire back by telling them how interesting they are. Few phrases make people feel more special than the words “I love the way you think.”
Yesterday I spoke with my friend Nick Wignall for the first time in over a month. I counted three times that he led off a new conversation with the words “The last time we spoke you told me about X. How’s it going?” It made me feel like he really cared about me. Granted he’s a trained psychologist and his job demands being a good listener. But you don’t need to go to school for a decade to incorporate this phrase into your daily conversations.
“The last time we spoke you told me about your new project. How’s it going?” “The last time we spoke you told me your mother wasn’t doing well. I hope she’s feeling better.” No detail is too small for this one. In fact, the smaller the detail the better. Following-up about their mother is silver. Asking about her by name is gold. The greatest compliment you can give to someone is to show them that you are listening to them.
Three weeks ago Niklas Göke and I were walking down the mean streets of Barcelona talking about life and writing. I said something in passing and a few days ago he sent me a message that he followed my advice and it had made a big difference in his work. I was beaming. Nik has helped me a lot. Knowing that I had steered him in the right direction on something made me feel good about myself.
“I followed your advice and each night I lock my computer up in the trunk of my car to better disconnect from work. It’s been a godsend. Thank you.” As I said, people love it when people listen to them. But they really love it when they are told that they have been helpful and their words have made a positive effect on someone else’s life.
I live in a small town in Catalunya, 6,000 miles away from many of my closest friends. Over the years the communication has become less and less. But once a month or so I open up my email or my phone and waiting for me is a message from a friend saying they miss me. I love it.
Reach out to an old friend today and ask them how they are and say that you miss them. Tell them that you’ve been thinking about them and bring up an occasion that will make them smile. It takes a second, but it can help to make a friendship last a lifetime.
Every single person in the world has admirable qualities. Being on the lookout for them and letting them know how much you respect them has never damaged a relationship.
“I really admire how great you are with people. People really respond well to you.” “I really admire how strong you are. If that had happened to me I’m not sure I would have been able to handle it.” Again, this is a good place to get specific and spot small details or notice how they have improved in an area that you know is important to them: “Wow. Your Spanish has really gotten better. I really admire how hard you’ve been working.”
I don’t have the data on this but I would be willing to bet that not one person on the planet has walked away with a sour look on their face after hearing the words — “You have the best energy. I always feel better after spending time with you.”
“I love your vibe.” “I really admire how positive you always are.” “I always have fun when I’m with you.” Sure, these may sound a bit cheesy. But if I’ve learned anything in my 41-years it’s that allowing yourself to be cheesy from time to time is one of the best things you can do for your relationships.
This past Sunday my phone made a beep and I noticed a new message from my friend John Gorman: “I loved this article and I thought it was also in your wheelhouse.” John may be known for making women feel special, but I gotta tell you after reading his thoughtful message I caught my cheeks getting a bit warm. A message that may have taken him all of 10 seconds to write gave me an extra pep in my step.
If you heard a song that reminds you of summer 09’ — send it to the friend you used to listen to it with. If you watched a movie and it reminded you of someone — let them know. If you see a funny pair of $5 socks that you know a friend will love — buy them. When I was a teenager my mom told me that women love unexpected gifts at unexpected times. It turns out that middle-aged males do also.
One of my goals for this post was to use only examples of men saying nice things to other men. God knows that men need to say more nice things to women. But I’d also love to see them saying more nice things to each other. Maybe feeling that support would bleed off into other areas and we’d be nicer to everyone regardless of race, age, sex or religion.
However, last night Darcy Reeder thwarted my plan by sending a message that sent me to the moon: “Thank you so much for being a good man/person.”
It may sound stupid but I’ve been really trying to be a good person the last few years and Darcy saying that meant the world to me. I’d be willing to bet that if you said it to more people they’d like it also. Most people are good. Maybe if we said that more often we wouldn’t do so many bad things to each other.
There you have it — 11 phrases that people love to hear.
If you hadn’t noticed while reading them, none of them are all that complicated. In fact, most of the phrases and the words that make them up are pretty small.
Our words hold power — both good and bad.
Why not say the good ones?
This article was originally published on Ladders.
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