Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Become More Likeable With 19 Little Words

Thank youThe headline on this particular blogpost – “19 Words That Will Make People Like You More” – was irresistible.

Who doesn’t want to be more popular? And to get there in less than two dozen words? Count me in.

Here are the 19 allegedly magical incantations:

  • Sir and ma’am
  • You’re welcome.
  • Here’s what’s happening.
  • How can I help?
  • I will find out.
  • I believe in you.

OK, fine. A harmless little post. It consumed only a few minutes of my life.

But I must confess that I came away from it feeling somewhat less than enlightened (a sentiment I’m sure long-suffering readers of my own posts will identify with). It could have been penned by Miss Manners or any of a number of second-tier success writers.

But in the days that followed, something odd happened.

Every time I heard someone utter one of the 19 words – a co-worker, a cashier, a clerk at the Post Office – a little bell went off in my head. I remembered the post. And whenever I caught myself saying one of the special words, good things invariably resulted.

Five Takeaways from 19 Words

  1. Simplicity is a virtue. No doubt there are thousands of words and phrases that can enhance one’s likeability. You could write a book about them. But who would read such a massive book? And who would remember anything in it? By contrast, a handful of words – distilled into six simple phrases – are easily mastered.
  2. Good manners never go out of style. Much has been written about the creeping informality of American culture. We have become a slangy, looser, casual-Friday society. In such an environment, one way to stand out is by falling back on good old-fashioned courtesy. It is a quality that makes our profession special.
  3. “No problem” is not the same as “You’re welcome.” It’s a safe bet that at some point today someone will say “sure” or “no problem” or “you’re fine” when what they really mean is “you’re welcome.” Blogger Bill Murphy writes “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.”
  4. Clarity counts. Clients come to your office confused, anxious and defensive. By giving them clear and accurate information – conveyed by phrases like “Here’s what’s happening” and “I’ll find out” – you will ease tension and earn trust.
  5. When we empower others we strengthen ourselves. Nobody does anything excellent solely on their own. We all get by with a little help from our friends. You become someone’s ally when you ask “How can I help?” You become their champion when you say “I believe in you.”

What words would you add to the list? What are some phrases people say that make them more attractive to you?

Write them down – and then start using them.


Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact, phone 919-619-2441.

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.

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