A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

15 Magic Phrases to Make Anyone Trust You

Slip these words into your conversations to build trust between friends and coworkers.

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“Hi! You’re looking…”

Don’t just give friends and coworkers an upnod or an insincere “How are you?” while you breeze past. Pause and take a moment to comment on their appearance, whether they look happy, sad, or sick. You’ll probably spark a conversation about the weekend plans they’re looking forward to or the sick child they’re taking care of, says Paul Zak, PhD, author of Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High Performance Companies. Instead of making small talk, “it’s a much deeper conversation, but people almost always respond well to it,” he says. “It builds that emotional tie.”

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“I understand what you’re saying”

Even if you disagree with someone’s views, show them you respect their beliefs with a phrase like “I appreciate your opinion” before trying to change their mind, says Lisa Gueldenzoph Snyder, PhD, professor and chairperson of the department of business education at North Carolina A&T State University. “Then provide an example that supports their perspective before transitioning the conversation to your perspective,” she says. This way, they’ll feel less criticized and will be more open to trusting what you have to say. On the other hand, these are the phrases that make an argument worse.

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“In my opinion…”

When you’re about to share that dissenting opinion, transition between showing you want to understand the other perspective and your take on the subject. Phrases like “in my opinion” and “others suggest” make you seem more open to other opinions than “I” statements. “Try to use pronouns that don’t make it one-sided,” Dr. Gueldenzoph Snyder says. “Immediately saying ‘I think’ puts the focus on you instead of the combined conversation.” Also avoid saying “actually” and “in your opinion,” which imply the other person is wrong. Said the wrong thing? Make sure you know these phrases that can save an awkward conversation.

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“How did you think that went?”

When starting a conversation about how someone could improve, let people gauge their success by their own standards. Starting with your own judgments could make the other person clam up and share less information. “Let them decide how successful it was and what they want to talk about,” says Carla Chamberlin-Quinlisk, PhD, professor of applied linguistics, and communication arts and sciences at Pennsylvania State University, Abington. “If you put a judgment on it and ask what they can do better, it puts that person on the defenses.” Here are 16 smart ways to get your boss to trust you.

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“What can I do differently?”

Asking this lets others know you’re open to positive change and not set in old and potentially ineffective ways. In order to foster a team mentality, you should show that you are willing to make changes to help others out when needed, a critical value in any environment. Not only can this mentality help out a team working to achieve a goal, it also shows that you possess the motivation for self-development.

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Senior mother sitting in cafe bar or restaurant with her middle age daughter and enjoying in conversation.

“I’m all ears”

Telling someone “I’m all ears” is the first step, but to really make this effective you have to follow through. This statement ensures you’re holding yourself accountable for listening intently when someone is speaking to you. As Inc. suggests, match your body language to the level of engagement you want to reflect in the conversation and make sure to acknowledge their ideas. These are the habits that good listeners practice.

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“Sorry about the traffic”

A study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that participants were quicker to trust people who started a conversation by apologizing for something they weren’t responsible for. They rated a hypothetical Craigslist seller as more trustworthy when the person apologized for the rain rather than made a neutral comment about it or didn’t mention it at all. “By issuing a superfluous apology, you acknowledge someone else’s misfortune and express sympathy—a benevolent perspective-taking tactic,” says Alison Wood Brooks, PhD, assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and co-author of the study.

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“I think you know my friend”

Whether they look like us, talk like us, or have similar interests, we’re attracted to people who seem familiar, Dr. Zak says. Establishing mutual friends with someone you just met will instantly make you seem more trustworthy. That person will know you’re telling the truth by asking that shared connection. “If you’re like us, it’s easier to trust you,” he says. “Finding a shared friend or one person removed is an effective way. It’s always verifiable.”

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“That was my fault”

You might think mistakes will kill your credibility, but accepting your shortcomings actually builds trust by showing that you’re human. “People who are imperfect are more attractive to us,” Dr. Zak says. “We like them more than people who seem too perfect.” It might be hard to admit to your faults at first, but if you do it enough, your brain will get used to it and you can change your habits, he says. Here’s what science says about forgiveness.

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Business couple having conversation in restaurant.

“This is my side…”

By starting out with this phrase, you are signaling to others that you acknowledge that their thoughts and feelings are just as valid as yours, and that you have an awareness of the fact that they may have perceived things differently than you. It’s important to keep calm during a conflict and make the effort to properly resolve it for others to be confident in their trust in you, and saying this invites others to share what is on their minds—respectfully.

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“Can you give me a hand?”

Once you admit you’ve messed up, asking for someone else’s help will make you seem even more trustworthy to that person. A study in the journal Management Science found that participants rated others as more competent when they asked for help. This was especially true when the task was difficult, when the advisee seemed knowledgeable, and when the volunteer was asked personally. “In our research, we find that people are hesitant to ask for advice because they are afraid they will appear incompetent,” says study author Dr. Wood Brooks. “This fear is misplaced. People view those who seek their advice as more competent than those who do not seek their advice.” Here are 5 more subtle habits that make people trust you.

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“What can I do to help?”

A simple question like this can do wonders to let someone know you’re on their side. Just as asking for help makes others see that you value their talents and skills, asking if others need help is crucial for them to see that you’re someone they can rely on. As a bonus, helping them out now might make them more likely to help you at a time when you really need it. Check out more ways to build trust with your coworkers.

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“I trust your judgment”

After you’ve asked for assistance, don’t micromanage someone who’s trying to help. Let them know your goal for them, then let them execute that plan however they see fit. “Give them control of their lives,” Dr. Zak says. “Autonomy is important. It shows we trust other people.”

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“Uh-huh, I see”

Using non-word sounds like “mhm” or “uh-huh” when someone is talking to you shows you’re interested, which will encourage a person to like you and trust you more, Dr. Gueldenzoph Snyder says. “It’s reinforcement that you’re paying attention and are interested in what that person has to say,” she says. Just don’t start making more noises than feels natural when you’re listening—overcompensating will come off as insincere, she says.

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“I couldn’t have done it without you”

Giving credit where it is due and showing your gratitude for any help you received shows others how greatly their contributions are valued. After all, no one likes to do work that they are not appreciated for, and it’s so simple to show them you understand how helpful they were to you. By acknowledging this, you are also creating more positive relationships in the future by promoting the ideas that collaboration is key to success and that those who contribute are held in high regard.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.