TIME Careers & Workplace

17 Daily Habits My Dad Insists Will Make You Happier and More Successful

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Want to improve your life, one daily habit at a time? My dad offers some pretty good advice.


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

The other day my dad sent me an email with the subject line, “YOUR COLUMN.” (My dad is sometimes big on all-caps.) It began:

Bill:
In the tradition of 12 step programs and your excellent columns, I offer the following for your use, adaptation, or rejection.

My dad (Bill Murphy Sr., if you’re doing the genealogical math) has enjoyed business successas a lawyer who built his own firm, and who has worked for himself since the early 1970s. He and my mom raised five kids together, and they’re still going strong. They’re devoted to their grandchildren, and moreover my dad is a man who enjoys both his work and the rest of his life.

In fact, as I read his email, it occurred to me that he’s achieved many of the things that younger people tell me are among their goals in life. (Of course, I’ve been too close to realize it.)

My dad went on to offer four daily habits, each of which made great sense to me, and which I know he’s backed up with experience. However, I also know my dad well enough to realize that offering onlyfour pieces of advice isn’t exactly his nature, so I racked his brain. Here’s what we came up with.

1. Carpe diem.

You know that this is Latin for “seize the day,” right? This is the first daily habit on my dad’s list. No matter how yesterday went–whether you had great triumphs or whether you wish you’d spent the whole day in bed, remember that every new day is a new opportunity. You can’t rest on yesterday’s accomplishments, and you never have to repeat yesterday’s mistakes.

2. Spend as much time as you can with the people you love.

Your spouse, your kids, your parents, your close friends–whoever they are–make sure that you find lots of time to spend time with the people you truly care about. If you want to feel really guilty about this, check out the calculator at seeyourfolks.com, which will calculate how many more times you’re likely to see your parents based on past experience and life expectancy. (We’ll wait here while you go give them a call afterward.)

3. At the same time, love the ones you’re with.

There are many different kinds of love, and here my dad is talking about showing respect and concern for the people you spend your days with. “That is simply, love everyone,” is how my dad put it, and he added a quote from Thomas Merton: “Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone–we find it with another.

4. Work hard.

You can’t always determine what you get out of something, but you can often control what you put into it. When I was growing up and I’d be anxious over some school assignment or other project, my dad would usually ask me the same question afterward: “Did you give it your best shot? Then forget about it.”

5. At the end of the day, go home.

This one seems simple, until you start to realize how most of us are almost 100% on and accessible all the time now. Now, I’m not going to pretend that either my dad or I truly live up to this advice, but it’s a good goal to have.

6. Later, go to bed.

“Get the rest you need. Your body needs sleep–not just ‘rest and relaxation’–for it to work well,” my dad insists. He’s right of course–and it’s even become fashionable to admit thatpeople need sleep.

7. Get some exercise.

My dad’s sport is swimming, and while he came to it late, my dad has the zeal of a convert. A few years ago he did a half-mile open water swim off the beach in Narragansett, R.I. Regardless of what sport or activity works for you, my dad advises, your day will be improved if you do something athletic. Science backs him up.

8. Have a little faith.

As a lawyer–the kind of lawyer who takes on real clients and tries real cases in court–dad has pretty much seen it all. He also has stronger religious (Catholic) faith than most people I know, perhaps in part because he’s had his faith tested in many ways. It helps immensely if you believe in something bigger than yourself.

9. Learn another language.

My dad studied ancient Greek and Latin in high school. More recently, in his 60s, he decided to try to learn Farsi, I guess to better understand what some of our nation’s enemies were saying about us. Whether you’re literally learning another language or simply learning how to do new things and to challenge your preconceptions, the lesson is clear: Keep learning.

10. Read every day.

In a few weeks, guess what I’ll get my dad for Father’s Day: a book, most likely something on the top of the New York Times nonfiction bestseller lists. It’s what I’ve been doing for decades, so why stop now? I can’t think of many people I’ve known who read more than my dad. Importantly, he usually reads about things that have nothing to do with his work.

11. Keep your wardrobe simple.

My dad gave me this advice years ago when I first started working–so of course I completely ignored it at the time. However, had I gone ahead as he’d suggested and bought a handful of white and blue shirts, for example, and worn them every day, it would have been one fewer decision to have to make in the morning. It looks like that kind of simplification worked for Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, anyway.

12. Shine your shoes.

Shined shoes make you stand out these days, because most people are so casual. You can probably substitute something else for this habit. Just pick things that advertise to the world that you take care of small things. So maybe you also take care of bigger things.

(Here’s a text from my dad a few hours before this column ran: “Just read it again. On point 11, change ‘one less decision’ to ‘one fewer decision.’ Your grammar is wrong. Then, point out this message as an example of point 12.”)

13. Tell the people you love that you love them.

Hey, we’re back to love. Don’t just spend time with the people you love, as advised back in No. 2. Make sure you actually tell them that you love them. For example, when I talk to my dad, he’ll tell me to tell my wife that he loves her. Unnecessarily but amusingly, he’ll add that I should be sure to mention that he means he loves her “appropriately.”

14. Don’t worry.

This is one of those do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do pieces of advice, as my dad is in fact pretty good at worrying about things. That said, worrying rarely improves the odds of good things happening, and can actually diminish those odds.

15. Be kind to animals.

My dad has had dogs since he was little. He treats animals well. His advice? If you want to treat a dog well, treat it like a dog. Don’t try to make it into something it isn’t, and doesn’t want to be (for example, a little human being). Help it become the best possible version of itself.

16. Find good assistants.

For many years, my father had the same, excellent secretary. He taught me long ago that even during the times when you’re working by yourself, you have to be willing to depend on others for help. The most productive people in the world often succeed because they refuse to do some things.

17. Repeat as needed.

This is perhaps the most important bit of advice on my dad’s list, so it’s fitting to have saved it for last. None of these items are actions so much as they are behaviors. The first time you commit to them, you won’t see results. Over a lifetime, however, they can greatly improve your life. Aristotle put it best: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”

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14 Tactics for Reading People’s Body Language

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7 Things You Can Do on Friday to Make Monday Awesome

Sheryl Sandberg and the Hypocrisy of Lean In

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Things Happy People Choose to Do Every Single Day

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Science shows that you can have an impact on only 12 percent of the things that determine whether you're happy. The happiest people among us understand that if you make the right choices, that small sliver is enough.


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

What separates the world’s happiest people from the rest of us?

About one-third of the U.S. population describes itself as “very happy,” according to the polling agency Harris Interactive–a higher number than I think many of us might expect.

These are the people in your office who are upbeat and eager no matter what unexpected challenges come their way, and the ones who seem to get genuinely excited over the smallest opportunities and kindnesses. They’re the folks in your social circles who endure hardship with smiles on their faces and who seem hard-wired always to look on the bright side.

Studies show that half of happiness is determined by genetics, and a little under 40 percent is governed by the impact of external events. You own the 12 percent of the package that’s left, however, and it turns out that the choices you make within that sliver make all the difference between being happy or not. Happier people realize this, and as a result they make seven key choices every day.

1. They choose to exercise.

There are many happy people who aren’t in great physical shape, so how does this make sense? The explanation is that you need only seven minutes of exercise a day if you’re exercising for the sake of happiness. That’s enough to make your body release endorphins, the neurotransmitters responsible for that famous “runner’s high.” They might not even call it exercise, but happy people find at least a small period of time each day to devote to moving around.

2. They choose to spend time outside.

Just 20 minutes a day outside is enough to elevate your level of happiness. You can even combine this with choice No. 1 and take your short exercise break outside. A simple walk at lunch or even a little time in the backyard, on the patio, or at a nearby park makes the difference. They might not even realize its impact on their happiness, but happy people make it a point to get outdoors.

3. They choose to focus on their families.

Three-quarters of Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2010 said that their family was “the most important, most satisfying element of their lives,” according to a U.S. News report on the study. So, bury the hatchet with your brother-in-law and focus on your parents, children, or siblings if you want to be happier. Happy people might not always want to, but they find at least a few minutes every day (often much more) to do things to improve their family relationships.

4. They choose to make time for friends.

Friends are the family we choose for ourselves, and at least some small amount of social time with them every day is necessary if you want to improve happiness. Even just checking in with friends for a few minutes on the phone or a 10-minute conversation or activity together can make a difference. If you’re truly among the busiest people among us, merge this with choices No. 1 and 2, and exercise outside together. Happy people might not always have as much time as they’d like, but they find a way to interact with friends.

5. They choose to find meaning in their work.

It’s uniquely American in that work satisfaction can make or break our happiness, but as an entrepreneur, you probably think about this choice all the time: Part of happiness comes from using your gifts and talents every day to make some kind of difference. Happy people might not have found their dream job or their true calling–heck, they might not love their work–but they find a way to put their daily tasks in perspective and to take pride and joy from what they do.

6. They choose to contribute to their communities.

Being part of a community gives you a sense of belonging and helps improve your sense of self-worth, even as you work to define who you truly are. Thus, every day, truly happy people find a way to share something with their broader communities–going beyond their families and groups of close friends. Happy people might be involved with professional associations, church groups, athletic organizations, or something else, but they make sure to find some way to share with them every day.

7. They choose to get enough sleep.

It’s true: Lack of sleep will ruin your life. If you don’t get enough shuteye, you’ll be more likely to be irritable, your judgment gets impaired, and your libido suffers, all of which affect your overall happiness. Happy people might be no less busy than the rest of us, but they squeeze something else out of their lives if necessary. They give up television watching, Internet surfing, or simply worrying about things they can’t affect–and they choose to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep every day.

Read more from Inc.com:

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

14 Tactics for Reading People’s Body Language

The One Trait That Guarantees a Good Hire

7 Things You Can Do on Friday to Make Monday Awesome

Sheryl Sandberg and the Hypocrisy of Lean In

TIME Careers & Workplace

19 Words That Will Make People Like You More

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Want to make a better first impression and engender positive feelings that last a long time? Focus on what you say as much as what you do


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

First impressions can lead to lasting impressions. So to improve, a lot of people will tell you to dress better, read more (so you’ll have interesting things to talk about), and ensure that your online presence is respectable (because many people will check you out online before meeting in person).

But, how far will that get you? Despite what many people would like to believe, the things you say often make an even greater early impression than the things you do. To take advantage of that and get you started easily, here are 19 words–grouped into a handful of easy phrases–that you should make a habit of saying every day. They’re virtually guaranteed to improve your standing with others if you use them often enough.

Words No. 1 and 2: “Sir” and “ma’am”

American culture is pretty informal compared to many other places in the world, but a little bit of formality can really make you stand out in a positive way. I carry this inclination from the military, and also from having been a lawyer in the federal court system. These are environments in which people use the titles “Sir” and “Ma’am” constantly–not just in talking with high ranking military officers, but also addressing civilians.

I know that this doesn’t work in every situation, but using these titles can be a sign of respect that gets people’s attention. It can be important in professional relationships, especially when dealing with people you don’t know well, and who are older or more experienced than you.

Words No. 3 and 4: “You’re welcome.”

Sometime in fairly recent history it seems people stopped saying, “You’re welcome,” and started substituting, “Yep,” or, “No problem.” At the risk of sounding older than I am, I think this is a step in the wrong direction–at least in a business or professional setting.

Why? Because ditching “you’re welcome” for these other phrases changes the message. “You’re welcome” acknowledges that you’ve done something worth someone else’s thanks, while “no problem” suggests that it wasn’t that big of a deal. Saying the former phrase conveys that you think it was a worthwhile favor. That’s an impressive message to send.

Words No. 5 to 7: “Here’s what’s happening.”

If you’ve ever worked in an environment in which people guarded information like a valuable commodity, you’ll appreciate how much affinity you develop for the few people who try to keep everyone else accurately informed.

Of course you don’t want to be a know-it-all or spread rumors. However, even if you don’t know the full story, being willing to share the information you have that affects others’ lives can make you instantly more likable.

Words No. 8 to 11: “How can I help?”

Nobody accomplishes anything amazing alone. Thus, with the exception of the sociopaths among us, we’re all eventually grateful to those who help us achieve great things. I think we’re especially grateful to those who proactively try to help.

This doesn’t mean you have to go way out of your way to offer assistance, but it’s often the case that you have access to something or the ability to do something that won’t take much on your part, but that can really have a positive impact on someone else’s success.

Words #12 to 15: “I’ll find out.”

This is one of my favorite phrases. It’s related to “how can I help,” but is even more proactive. It says that you’re not only willing to offer assistance, but that you’re willing to go out of your way to do so.

(By the way, this helpful phrase is also the diametric opposite of the most bureaucratic phrase known to humankind, uttered incessantly by some of the least likable people: “That’s not my job.”)

Words No. 16 to 19: “I believe in you.”

Henry Ford recalled that when he was still an unknown, and was working on gasoline engines, a few short words of encouragement from an already famous Thomas Edison were a massive shot in the arm.

It’s amazing how just a little bit of validation from other people can inspire people to work harder and achieve more. Four short words can have a huge, positive impact–both for the people you’re encouraging, and for their feelings toward you .

Read more from Inc.com:

The Most Important Success and Happiness Rules I’ve Learned From My Mom

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

Steve Jobs’s 13 Most Inspiring Quotes

17 Things Happy People Say Every Day

12 Words That Will Change Everything You Think About Entrepreneurship

TIME

10 Times You’re Better Off Saying Nothing at All

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You know the saying that sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all?


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

You’ve probably read before about the key phrases that greatest leaders say every day.

But great leaders are also wise when it comes to the opposite strategy: Sometimes, the smartest thing to say is nothing at all.

I’m not referring here simply to the advice your mother might have given you about keeping your mouth shut if you don’t have anything nice to say. Instead, think of the big moments when people come close to achieving goals, accomplishing great things, or even just developing good relationships and encouraging people to like them more. Sometimes, a simple slip of the tongue can set them back and destroy all they’ve worked for.

It’s the same issue whether we’re talking about negotiations, investigations, or plain old conversations. So, in the interest of preventing us from wishing wistfully that our mouths had been on Mute, here are 10 times when the sounds of silence are the best sounds of all.

1. When the other side in a negotiation starts debating against itself.

Sometimes people get into a spiral of bad negotiating tactics. They wind up outsmarting themselves–perhaps making an offer and then rejecting their own offer because they think you won’t take it. Imagine a customer who opens a conversation by saying that he understands you can’t cut the price on your product before asking for some smaller concession–and then maybe even convincing himself that even that’s too much to ask for.

For a fun, extreme example of this in action, see this video from The Princess Bride. Often your best move in that situation is to keep your mouth shut and simply stay out of their way.

2. When you’ve asked a question.

We all know these people, right? They ask questions but can’t wait for you to finish so they can offer their own viewpoint. Sometimes they don’t even bother waiting and instead try to hurry you along with verbal cues–“uh-huh, uh-huh, right, right, right…”

When they asked for advice, what they really meant was, “Let’s fast-forward to the part where I tell you what I think, instead.” Don’t be like them. To paraphrase baseball great Yogi Berra, you can observe a lot by watching, and you can also learn a lot by listening.

3. When the other side misunderstands (and you don’t have a duty to talk).

A lawyer once told me about selling a client’s company. To make a long story short (lawyers love that phrase), the negotiation went much more smoothly than she’d expected. Eventually, she realized this was because some whiz-kid M.B.A. on the other side of the table had made a simple math error. That led him to overestimate vastly how much money the acquiring company would likely make after the deal was done.

The lawyer was overcome with apprehension, until she realized the right thing to say: nothing at all. That way, she wouldn’t be breaching her duty not to misrepresent facts to the buyer, but she also wouldn’t do anything to scuttle her client’s deal. The moral of the story is that you don’t always have an obligation to correct someone else’s mistakes.

4. When you don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.

Silence is awkward. As a result, people often rush to fill it. I used to use this tendency to my advantage when I was a trial attorney taking depositions in civil cases. Sometimes, I’d ask a witness an open-ended question, and even though the witness’s tone of voice suggested he’d finished his answer, I’d just continue to wait expectantly, as if anybody with half a clue would understand he had to keep it coming. Sometimes, the witness would keep going and dig himself a bigger hole.

You never have to fill a silence, especially when you don’t have anything useful to fill it with. (In those cases, it’s true: Everything you say may well in fact be used against you.)

5. When you need someone else to get the credit.

As President Harry S. Truman once said, you can accomplish just about anything if you don’t care who gets the credit. Sometimes, that means staying quiet just long enough for someone else to think of your solution and propose it as his or her own.

6. When you are bragging, as opposed to sharing.

This one is among the scourges of social media. Go on Facebook, for example, and sometimes it seems as if everyone you know is eating well, taking amazing vacations, running marathons, and enjoying storybook relationships.

Is all of this about social sharing or social bragging? If you find you’re leaning toward the latter with the things you talk about, maybe it’s time to be quiet.

7. When your comment is more about you than the other person.

Suppose your co-worker Sally is excited for her plans for the weekend. You catch yourself ready to tell her about a better place than what she’s planned or why she should take her trip on another weekend–maybe when the weather is better, when the traffic will be less hectic, or when she’ll have fewer competing commitments.

Aw, that’s really nice of you–as long as you’re sure your comments are truly intended to improve her experience or offer good advice. If there’s a chance you’re commenting out of jealousy or pride, however, maybe you’d be better off zipping it.

8. When you want someone else to grow.

This is a similar point to when you want someone else to get the credit for a good idea. If you have a second grader in your family, chances are you could do her homework for her without much effort. But what would be the point? You want her to learn and grow, which means she has to be the one to come to the conclusions on her own.

The same thing is true in many other circumstances. Instead of leaping forward to answer a thoughtful question that you know the answer to, sometimes it makes sense to hold back and let others figure it out.

9. When you are clearly boring people.

I admit it. I’ve got what’s called “the Irish gift of gab.” I enjoy telling stories. My wife laughs at how often I seem to wind up telling total strangers the story of how she and I met and got together. It’s a good one, though! You see, we’d gone to college together and dated for a while, but then broke up…

OK, I’ll hold off on it for now, and that’s the point. Most of us can tell when we’re holding court for an audience that simply couldn’t care less. In that case, cut it short, wrap things up, and stop talking.

10. When you begin a speech.

I love this example, and it’s something I first put into practice when arguing appeals in court.

Whenever I give a speech, I try to start out with a long, uncomfortable pause. Doing so puts the audience ill at ease for a moment and gets them rooting for you. They worry that you’ve lost your notes or that you’re about to keel over from a panic attack. That way, when you start talking, you’ll have at least a few of them on your side, happy that at least you haven’t made them witness an embarrassing meltdown (h/t, Winston Churchill).

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Firing an Employee–Even a Bad One–Is Hard to Do

TIME Careers & Workplace

17 Things Extremely Happy People Say Every Day

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Are you as happy as you wish you were? If not, try saying a few of these simple, inspiring things to other people


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published atInc.com.

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.

Make 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 other person?

2. “I’m always 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 the help.

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 the person.

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 and gratitude.

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 actively.

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 you, too.)

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 worth it.

17. “No.”

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.

More from Inc.com:

12 Simple Tricks For Saving Time on Email

3 Beliefs of Highly Successful People

5 Things Anyone Can Do to Be More Self-Confident

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