Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

A Magic Sentence Can Bring You 20 Percent More Clients

A simple sentence of less than 10 words could attract close to 20 percent more clients to your practice.

No, the magic words are not: “Hire me and all your legal dreams will come true.”

The message is simpler – and more honest – than that. To-wit: “I can really put myself in your shoes.”

In a series of experiments on interpersonal relationships, researchers at UCLA found that if someone thinks you’re seeing things from their perspective, they are 19 percent more inclined to like you.

And here’s the fascinating part: it doesn’t matter if you fully understand where the other person is coming from. Simply saying “I can really put myself in your shoes” will make your likeability soar.

And since clients tend to hire lawyers they know and like, those eight words could be a marketing bonanza.

“Virtually every human being has a need to feel understood,” writes Mark Murphy, a New York Times best-selling author and founder of Leadership IQ, on CNBC. “It feels good when someone just ‘gets’ us. So when we meet a person who has the ability to be understanding, we immediately view them as a likable person.”

Read more on the UCLA study here.

Walk a Mile – or a Few Feet – in My Shoes

The psychological concept that powers the phrase “I can really put myself in your shoes” is known as perspective-taking. This means the ability to look at a conflict, problem, situation – pretty much anything – from someone else’s point of view.Bottom of Form

“Use the perspective-taking approach to being likable when conversing with another person,” says Murphy. “When talking to a colleague, for example, the goal is to show them that you understand them.”

In the UCLA experiment, two groups of test subjects were instructed to write an essay about a time when they were treated unfairly by their boss. The subjects were informed that someone would read the essay and provide brief feedback.

The first group was told the reader said, “I tried to take their perspectives, but I just couldn’t put myself in their shoes.” The second group was told the reader said, “I tried to take their perspectives, and I could really put myself in their shoes.”

Based solely on this sentence – and without seeing the reader or knowing anything more about them – the second group said they liked their reader 19 percent more than the first group. They also felt 78 percent more empathy toward their reader.

The conclusion: Just saying “I can really put myself in your shoes” will draw others to us.

As Murphy says: “Most people live their lives — either consciously or unconsciously — with a norm of reciprocity. That means when someone does something for us, we feel a psychological obligation to return the kindness.”

What Perspective-Taking Is Not

Perspective-taking doesn’t mean agreeing with everything your client says. It doesn’t mean endorsing their viewpoint or approving of their conduct. It simply means you make a good-faith effort to view the situation through their lens.

Here are some other things perspective-taking is not, per Murphy: “It isn’t nodding vigorously, mindlessly grunting, ‘uh-huh,’ ‘sure,’ ‘I see’ and so on. It isn’t placating by saying, ‘I know what you mean when you really don’t.”

Too easy, right?

“You’re probably thinking, this all sounds absurdly simple,” says Murphy. “But the sad reality is that a lot of people don’t practice the skill of perspective-taking. Here at Leadership IQ, we’ve analyzed more than 11,000 answers to an online test called Do You Know How to Listen With Empathy? A third of respondents failed miserably, revealing their poor their perspective-taking skills. Only 20 percent achieved perfect scores.”


So why not give the magic sentence a try? You might find yourself voted Most Likeable in the Office.

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

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