Are you as happy as you wish you were? If not, try saying a few of these simple, inspiring things to other people
There’s an easy-to-articulate, hard-to-implement best practice when it comes to how to teach yourself to be happy.
It stems from the recognition that the positive things you do for other
people often reverberate back to create positivity in your own life. In
effect, doing little things to make other people happy can greatly
improve your happiness.
sense? There are two theories at work. The first is that focusing on
others creates joy of its own accord. The second is that as you succeed
in improving others’ happiness, you’ll wind up with happier, more
grateful people around you. They’ll find you likable and charismatic, which in turn can lead them to treat you in a manner that produces even more happiness.
It’s easier said than done, but fortunately, there’s a compelling shortcut. Your words are among your greatest tools, so you can have an outsize effect on others simply by thinking about what you say every day and making an effort to be both positive and sincere. There are certain inspiring things that truly happy people
find themselves saying to others all the time. Try making an effort to
say a few of these every day for a week. You’ll be amazed at how the
positivity you create improves your happiness.
1. “I’m happy to see you.”
This is the most basic and attractive
sentiment you can express to another human being–that simply being in
the person’s presence creates a positive feeling. Whether you’re telling
an employee that you need his skills, that you value his opinions, or
just that you think he’s good company, you’ve begun an interaction on a
very high note. How can that not produce some level of happiness in the
2. “I’malways happy to see you.”
Take the previous remark a step further. This
is the opposite of most relationship advice–that you should never take a
specific negative action and suggest that it’s indicative of someone’s
entire way of acting. Well, turn that on its head, by expressing that
it’s not just this interaction that has produced positive feelings but
basically all interactions with this person. It’s an amazingly
gratifying thing to hear.
3. “Remember when you…”
Surprise someone by bringing up a positive
thing that she did in the past, and you’re almost guaranteed to induce a
positive response. Maybe it’s a joke the person told that you’re still
laughing about; maybe it’s a small act of heroism she performed.
Regardless, if it’s something she thought was long forgotten, learning
that something she did made a positive, lasting impression on someone
else is an amazing experience.
4. “You might not realize this, but…”
This an even more potent version of the
previous suggestion, provided you finish the sentence with a description
of how the person’s actions led to a positive outcome. It’s one thing
to learn that other people recognize the favorable things you’ve done;
it’s another thing entirely to learn that you’re having a positive
effect on other people without even realizing it.
5. “You really impress me.”
This is similar to “I’m happy to see you” and “I’m always happy to see you,” except that it focuses on things that the person does,
rather than his or her existential being. Other variations include “You
are really great at…” or “People love that you…” Simply be sincere and
specific. “You’re really great at calming stressful situations” or
“People love that you always have the best music.” It can be anything,
as long as it’s authentic and truly positive, and it’s guaranteed to
elicit positive reactions.
6. “You really impressed me when…”
Focusing on specific actions or events can be
even more powerful. It means that you’re not only thinking abstractly
but offering proof that things the other person does provoke positive
reactions. It’s the difference between saying that a comedian was really
funny and quoting one of his or her best jokes. (Other versions: “You
handled that well when you turned that client’s objection into an
opportunity” or “It was really cool to see how you parallel-parked that
car into that tiny spot.”)
7. “I believe in you.”
People have self-doubts. You do, I do, we all do. (Heck, every time I write a column here–and this is number 167, by the way–I wonder how people will react.) When others simply say they believe in you, however, it becomes easier to believe in yourself.
Here’s an analogy. Have you ever gotten into
lifting weights, or simply watched people do it? It’s amazing how the
slightest bit of assistance from a spotter–with force equal to the
weight of a pencil–can help someone lift far more weight than he could
on his own. It’s the same concept here–just that small expression of
confidence can push people to achieve more–and then to be thankful for
8. “Look how far you’ve come!”
It is so important to celebrate achievements.
This doesn’t mean you have to throw a party, but even acknowledging that
someone’s efforts have achieved results can be extremely gratifying for
Of course, heck, if you want to take things to
the extreme, throw a party. Just be sure that you’re the one buying the
first round and singing the loudest.
9. “I know you’re capable of more.”
Everyone needs to be pushed at times,
especially when we fall short. If you care about people, you’re going to
be called on sometimes to be a bit of a coach, or maybe to employ a bit
of tough love. Even the most steadfast and confident among us sometimes
need a friend to guide them to a better way of acting.
The late, great NFL coach Vince Lombardi put
this best: “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to
do, to achieve what they want to achieve.” Nobody does anything great
alone, so be the one standing by to help, and you’ll inspire positivity
10. “I’d like to hear your thoughts about…”
Everyone likes to think that his or her
opinions matter, and of course they do–sometimes. However, this kind of
invitation to share what someone thinks can’t help making the person
feel just a tiny bit more self-worth, which in turns creates both
happiness and positive feelings toward you. Just be sure to be sincere;
don’t just say this for the sake of saying it. Make sure that you are
truly interested in whatever subject you’re asking about and listen
11. “Tell me more.”
This is the best follow-up to the last item.
It tells the other person that you’re listening, and that you find value
in what he or she is saying. The actor and writer Peter Ustinov once
said that the greatest compliment he ever received took place when he
was afraid he had gone on too long in a conversation with Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher, only to have her tell him, “Please continue.”
12. “I took your suggestion.”
OK, it’s almost too easy at this point.
Combine asking someone’s opinion and demonstrating that the person has
had impact on your life and you’ve provided him with two of the most
gratifying, basic experiences of the human condition.
It doesn’t matter really whether you tried a
new restaurant on the other person’s advice, followed his suggestion on
how to begin an important conversation, or started getting up 15 minutes
earlier for a week because he said it was a good idea. Simply being
listened to and having impact makes people feel better. Bonus points if
his suggestion created a positive result, but you’ll get credit
regardless. (Related: “You were right.”)
13. “I’m sorry.”
Say this when you mean it–when you’ve done
something worth expressing regret for or the other person deserves
sympathy. However, don’t water it down by using it when you don’t mean
it. In fact, one writer made a compelling argument recently that the phrase is so overused that it ought to be retired.
That would be a shame, but it underscores how people appreciate this
phrase when it’s sincere, and how it annoys them when it isn’t.
14. “I’d like to be more like you.”
Now you’ve got it–you’re expressing positivity
toward other people almost naturally, pointing out not only things that
they do well but maybe even things they do better than you do.
If you want to see a sentiment similar to this work very effectively, watch the 1997 movie As Good As It Gets.
Or else, just read this short bit of dialogue in which Jack Nicholson’s
character offers Helen Hunt’s character the ultimate compliment: “You make me want to be a better man.“
15. “Thank you.”
It’s not that much of a stretch to suggest
that every other item on this list is in fact a form of “thank you.”
This is truly one of the most powerful, underrated phrases in the
English language. It packs a heck of a punch, encompassing positivity
and impact in two little syllables. (By the way, thanks for reading this
far into this column. Maybe if you share it with others, they’ll thank
16. “You’re welcome.”
Not “yep.” Not “no problem” or “no worries.” Say “You’re welcome.”
Instead of deflecting another person’s thanks,
as some of these other phrases do, saying “you’re welcome” dignifies
the person’s gratitude. It acknowledges that yes, you did do something
worthy, or nice, or positive for someone–because you believe that she’s
There’s one small risk in this entire mode of
expression, and this word is your fail-safe. The danger is that
sometimes people who make other people’s happiness their priority can
wind up doing so at the cost of their own happiness. We all know some
people who take advantage, or who simply aren’t going to be happy no
matter what your efforts amount to.
Two little letters, and yet they can be so
powerful. Most important, they demonstrate that you care for yourself,
which is a key prerequisite to caring truly for other people. Carry this
one in your back pocket; use it when necessary. You’ll find that the
most positive and happy people you interact with respect you for doing
so–and that can make you happy, too.
This usually works on normal people. Went to a function the other day and I start chit chatting with this dude (nothing flirtatious) and dude starts telling me he's noticed me earlier because I smiled a lot. Thing is, he said it like it was a bad thing. I told him he should try it sometimes.
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