We often want to be the smart one. The go-to person. The expert.
It makes sense. Our society values experts. It rewards experts. It tells everyone that they can and should be an expert at something ... anything.
Unfortunately, in that quest to be an expert, we often fall into a fool's trap. We start believing that we must know it all, be it all, and do it all to be smart.
Soon our vocabulary changes. Soon we stop acknowledging others (so we're seen as the go-to person). Soon we stop admitting our shortcomings (so we're seen as the expert). Before long, we become a know-it-all (so we're seen as the smart one).
That's not what the true experts do. If you listen, you'll find their vocabulary is full of the following phrases.
1. Thank You
Want to get more out of the people around you? Tap into their best ideas? Earn their loyalty and trust? Say "please" and "thank you." (That's PLZ and THX in today's vernacular.) People don't hear it enough. Leaders don't say it enough.
2. I'm Sorry
Sometimes we make mistakes. It happens. And when it happens, it doesn't make us any less intelligent or smart. Not admitting and apologizing for our mistakes does. Smart people admit when they've made a mistake. They do so without hesitation or embarrassment. They embrace the right to make a mistake.
3. I Was Wrong
Unlike making a mistake, sometimes we make conscious decisions and we're wrong. Dead wrong. And that's OK too in the grand scheme of things. If we're scared to ever make a wrong decision, we'll never make any decision. We'll never learn and grow as humans and leaders. Understand that you will make wrong decisions. Just don't defend them. Admit when you're wrong and move on.
4. You Were Right
This is a tough one for most people. Most of us can muster the strength to say we're sorry, or to admit when we were wrong. But to tell someone else they were right? Well, I have news for you. Smart people acknowledge when other people are right. So you should do it.
5. It's OK
Saying "it's OK" allows other people the freedom to make their own mistakes and incorrect decisions. It recognizes the fact that they, like you, are learning and growing. Giving others the right to try and fail shows how smart you're becoming. It makes you a phenomenal leader.
6. What Do You Think?
Know-it-alls have the answer to every question. A solution to every problem. An opinion on every subject. But being a know-it-all isn't the same as being smart. Taking pause to ask for other ideas and opinions shows sound judgment. Accepting and embracing ideas and opinions that are better than your own shows true intelligence.
7. Let's Try
It's easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis. Smart people do enough research to avoid bad decisions (as much as possible), but then they get moving. They embrace the mantra: Let's try. They realize that learning is in doing, and sometimes failing. And they encourage others to do the same.
8. [Say Nothing]
OK, I'll admit, this isn't a phrase. But sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. Just listen. Don't share an opinion. Don't dominate the conversation. Don't have the answers. It will surprise you how smart you become when you listen and learn from others.