A dozen simple, easy-to-remember phrases, and they’ll almost always make other people react positively to you.
The late, great American poet Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It’s exactly the kind of truth I explore in my free ebook, 9 Smart Habits of People With Very High Emotional Intelligence, which you can download here, for free.
The truth is, your word choice creates a brief impression that can lead to a lasting impression, long after the particulars have been forgotten. That’s why the world’s most charismatic people tend to use some of the same phrases over and over.
Here are 12 of the most effective. Consciously pepper them into your daily speech, and watch the results.
1. “Here’s the situation.”
Ever known people who hold onto information like a scarce commodity? It can be frustrating and annoying trying to learn what’s going on–anxiety-producing even–not to know about things that could affect your future. The people who share good information in that kind of situation–not rumors, not bluster, but good information–become some of the best-liked people around.
2. “Tell me more.”
Most people like to talk about themselves. Almost everyone likes to hear that the things they’re contributing are considered valuable and welcome in the conversation. So, be on the lookout for good opportunities to show that you’re listening to others, and that you appreciate their viewpoints, by very explicitly asking them to share more than they already have. They might not remember why, but they’ll walk away with a positive opinion of you.
3. “What do you think?”
Very much related to number two. People want to believe that their opinions matter, and that they can affect the world around them. So, if you become known as someone who legitimately wants to hear others’ opinions, you’ll quickly increase your charisma. It applies in almost every situation–from casual interactions among strangers to serious work meetings.
4. “What can I do to help?”
Insightful people realize that nobody really does anything amazing without somebody else’s help. So, we’re all naturally wired to be grateful to people who offer legitimate help as we pursue our goals. If you have information, skills, or insights that will help others achieve their goals, others will appreciate you for offering them.
5. “Please/thank you.”
Politeness costs you absolutely nothing, but can pay big dividends. You pay respect; you get respect.
6. “You’re welcome.”
When you say “You’re welcome,” rather than “No problem” or another dismissive phrase, you acknowledge that you’ve done something worth thanking for someone else. This can only trigger a positive reaction in others.
7. “Let me find out for you.”
This phrase indicates not only that you’re willing to help–like number four–but also that you’re willing to go out of your way to do so.
8. “I’ve got your back.”
We all like to know that we’re not alone. Solidarity leads to affinity.
9. “I’d like you to meet…”
Introduce people to each other, and become a connector. By lending your credibility and your time, you’ll automatically make people grateful. If the connection turns out to be positive or fruitful, they’ll also remember you made it happen.
10. “I believe you can.”
We all face moments of self-doubt. Sometimes all it takes to overcome them is to hear that somebody else doesn’t doubt us. And people will remember that you’re among the ones who thought they could achieve their goals.
11. “I think you can do a lot better.”
This phrase is interesting. It’s criticism, but it’s criticism rooted in faith. Sure, you’re telling someone that you think he or she has fallen short, but you’re also indicating that you have confidence in this person’s ability to achieve more.
12. “Let me be up front with you.”
Setting expectations, signaling honesty, refusing to waste another person’s time: This simple phrase suggests the other person is not going to hear from you what he or she wants to hear. But it can engender positive reactions because it at least shows you want to treat this person with respect.
20 Ways to Make a Great First Impression
- Greet others with a smile and a firm handshake.
- Be curious and genuinely interested in other people.
- Don’t interrupt others when they’re talking. No one likes being interrupted.
- Make an offer to help or support them. I like to ask if there’s any way I can be helpful. I mean it, and if there is, I follow through.
- For men: Be aware that your body language and spatial orientation can make women uncomfortable. While this usually happens unconsciously, “standing over” women or taking a suggestive body posture can make women feel unequal or uncomfortable. These micro-aggressions are easy to avoid with self-awareness.
- Actually listen to other people. Don’t just stand there and wait for your turn to talk. Ask clarifying questions and provide confirmation that you’re listening.
- Practice good body language and posture. If you don’t know what that is, or what it looks like, learn.
- Don’t complain. You might think you’re stating facts, but you’re really just complaining. No one likes a complainer.
- If you’re shy or an introvert, then ask a lot of questions.
This helps take pressure off you and it allows the other person to do more of the talking. This has two benefits. First, it gives you space. Second, it helps you learn more about the other person.
- Listen more than you speak. Give others the space to share and be heard.
- Don’t make inappropriate jokes or say disparaging things about other people. Remember, if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.
- Don’t just collect a business card and split. A successful career is built on making meaningful relationships, not acquiring contacts. Meet the human behind the card.
- Take pride in your appearance. Today’s wardrobe is relaxed. Yet, no matter your style, your clothes should be clean and in good shape.
- For men: Do not hug a woman unless she initiates it. Here’s a helpful guide: If you wouldn’t hug a man you just met, and in that same situation, then it’s not appropriate to hug a woman.
- Have fun. People like meeting people who are happy and enjoying themselves.
- But don’t drink too much. Getting tipsy at a networking event or professional function doesn’t look good and won’t make a good first impression.
- Maintain eye contact. This means holding a warm, consistent gaze while also taking natural breaks so it doesn’t look like you’re staring at someone.
- If you’re eating, don’t talk with your mouth full. This is as important in adulthood as it was when you first learned this as a kid.
- Connect online. I always ask people to connect with me on LinkedIn, in addition to (or in lieu of) exchanging business cards.
- If you want something, ask politely. It’s OK to ask something of someone, but do so in a way that respects the other person and gives him or her an out. For example, you can ask: “I know you’re busy, but if it’s not too much trouble, would you be open to meeting me for a lunch meeting? My treat.”