Use these 9 little phrases to 'instantly brighten' someone's day, says happiness expert
You have a superpower that you might not know about: the power to make another person glow.
In fact, a study found that we underestimate how happy someone feels after they receive a compliment. As a happiness and well-being expert, I always remind people that these small acts of kindness have a big impact.
So channel your thoughtful side today and let people know that they matter to you. Here are nine little phrases you can say to instantly brighten someone's day:
1. "I am proud of you."
This compliment is often reserved for big achievements, like a promotion or graduation. But the people around you wake up every day and try their best to achieve their goals, make a positive impact and overcome challenges.
So don't forget to celebrate other forms of effort, too:
- When they make progress (e.g., working on a challenging project or sticking with a new habit for a few days).
- When they try something for the first time (e.g., a sport or online class).
- When they demonstrate character (e.g., speaking honestly or acting with compassion).
2. "I see your gifts."
Everyone has unique strengths, but might not know what they are. Studies have found that using your strengths is associated with living a happier life.
Show people what they're best at so they'll feel more confident by calling it out when you see it in action. And be as specific as you can.
A few examples:
- To a colleague: "You were so patient as you walked the client through the contract and answered all of their questions."
- To a friend: "You always make me laugh, even during the toughest times."
- To a boss: "Your clear presentation helped me to better understand our bigger company strategy."
3. "Tell me more about that."
One thing that's guaranteed to make someone's day: asking them to tell you more about their interests, feelings and experiences. Being listened to helps people to feel safe, supported and acknowledged.
Here are three ways to create space for others to open up:
- Find out what is important to them: "What do you do for growth and purpose?"
- After something happens to them, ask them to elaborate on their experience: "What did it feel like when you heard you'd won the deal?"
- Invite them to go deeper and share their perspective: "Tell me more about how you interpreted that feedback."
4. "I love you as you are."
People have a deep need to feel accepted and loved. It's important to remind them that they're wonderful — not just for what they do, but for who they are.
Reminding someone of their value can take many forms, like:
- To a direct report: "I feel lucky that you are on our team."
- To a colleague: "I admire you."
- To a friend: "I love spending time with you."
5. "I am grateful for you."
Expressions of gratitude start a positive upward cycle. A study found when you feel appreciated by your romantic partner, you also become more appreciative of them.
Gratitude even transforms work cultures by reducing uncivil behavior on teams.
A few words of appreciation can kickstart this change:
- To a partner: "Thank you for cooking dinner tonight so I could rest."
- To a direct report: "I am grateful for your insightful comments in that meeting."
- To a friend: "Thank you for a great phone call. Your advice really helped me."
6. "You are making a difference."
Having purpose in life is associated with greater life satisfaction and better health. Since finding purpose is a long-term goal that can take a career or a lifetime to fulfill, it's easy for people to feel discouraged along the way.
Keep others motivated by reminding them of the good they're doing now:
- Draw their attention to someone who is positively affected by their work: "Did you see how that customer walked out with a big smile on their face?"
- Remind them of the ripple effect of their actions: "The money you raised is going to help families who need housing this winter."
- Point out how their work accumulates to make a bigger impact on the world: "As a therapist, you're helping to solve our society's mental health crisis."
7. "You inspire me."
Who has been inspiring you lately? Have you told them so? We tend to keep these feelings to ourselves, but imagine how much it would mean to someone to hear it:
Here's a helpful script you can use:
- Start with: "You inspire me …"
- Then add the reason why: "... in the way you show up for your friends and family…"
- Finally, share the impact it has had: "... and it's made me think about how I can be a better friend."
8. "You can do this."
We've all struggled with gaining confidence, especially when trying new things. What we need during those moments is something that psychologists call self-efficacy, or the belief that you can take on a challenge successfully.
Here's how you can help boost it in others:
- Remind them of past successes: "You got through that hard time at work a few years ago, and I know you can do it again."
- Help them to reframe the obstacle into a challenge: "This is a chance to show your incredible skills in action."
- Point out a recent win: "You did an incredible job presenting in yesterday's meeting. I know you can do it again for this more senior audience."
9. "You changed my life."
Think about someone who has had a great impact on your life, but who you never properly thanked. Maybe it was a teacher who helped you master a subject, or a mentor in your first job.
Give them a call, send them a note or visit them in person to express how their support changed your life.
Every time you give someone a compliment, there's a bonus in store for you: It doesn't just make the other person glow; it ends up making you glow, too.
Stephanie Harrison is the founder of The New Happy, an organization advancing a new philosophy of happiness. She is an expert in happiness, speaker, designer, and author of the forthcoming book "The New Happy," published by Penguin Random House. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
- Want to sound and feel more confident? Ditch these 11 phrases from your vocabulary, say psychologists
- Here’s the No. 1 thing that makes relationships successful, say psychologists who studied 40,000 couples
- People who are good at small talk always avoid these 7 mistakes, says public speaking expert
Want to earn more and work less? Register for the free CNBC Make It: Your Money virtual event on Dec. 13 at 12 p.m. ET to learn from money masters like Kevin O'Leary how you can increase your earning power.