Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

As humans, we’re emotional creatures. We may use logic and intelligence to help us figure out what to do, but if our feelings and emotions aren’t engaged, we won’t be motivated to do it. In contrast, those same feelings and emotions can often cause us to say and do things we later regret–despite our better judgment.

That’s why emotional intelligence, the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions, is so valuable. 

Below you’ll find 10 simple phrases that each of us use every day. But as you’ll see, emotional intelligence is all about using those phrases in the right way.

1. Well done.

People crave praise–and everyone deserves commendation for something.

The key is to learn to give it sincerely and specifically. Insincere praise will do more harm than good; whereas specific praise is uplifting. Master this, and you’ll find people are kinder and more helpful in return.

2. Please and thank you.

It’s more than good manners. It’s motivating.

3. No.

For all the people pleasers, this can be the most difficult word in the world to get right. But at some point, you must achieve focus–and not let others rule your life. That means learning to say no.

Because every time you say yes to something you don’t really want, you’re actually saying no to the things you do.

4. Yes.

When you do say yes, mean it. That means committing yourself. Going all-in–even if you wish you hadn’t said yes in the first place.

Because if you keep your word–in things big and small–not only will you strengthen your reputation, you’ll accomplish much more in the end.

5. What do you think?

If you’re the leader of a team, making your people part of the decision process will help you gain their support. 

If you’re following a leader, making sure you understand that person’s perspective will help you see the big picture and add greater value.

6. Hi.

Don’t underestimate the power of a greeting–to your barista, to your colleagues, to your family when you get home for the day. 

Taking a single moment to greet others establishes common ground and shows respect. 

7. How are you?

To use emotional intelligence, you’ve got to do more than ask this question and move on–you’ve got to pay attention to the answer. Sometimes, the tone of voice or facial expression will say something different than the words that come out in reply.

Make yourself available to talk, without forcing the other party. Doing so shows personal interest and builds trust.

8. Tell me more.

When someone else trusts you enough to share their thoughts, honor that trust by truly listening. Invite them to share more, and you’ll foster deeper, closer relationships.

9. That’s enough.

In contrast, if someone crosses the line or exhibits toxic behavior, don’t be afraid to set boundaries. Speaking with confidence will help you make your values and principles clear to all.

10. Can I share something with you?

Many people don’t respond well to critical feedback. 

By asking this question, and remaining consistent with the other 9 phrases on this list, you dignify others, let them know you’re on their side, and earn their respect in the process.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

A version of this article originally appeared on