As someone who spends pretty much all day every day monitoring career and workplace news, I’m always reading about the things successful people never say. Each week someone has written a new variation on that article (I’ve written a few myself.)

Much less often do we talk about the things successful people do say, so I enjoyed by this article by career writer Jeff Haden. It’s nice to focus in the “do” instead of the “don’t” once in a while, don’t you think? Do we really know these things to be true? Maybe, sort of. A lot of it is just common sense to the point of being cliché, but you know the old cliché about every cliché being based in truth.

What do we mean when we say “successful?” I mean prosperous in all areas of life – from gainful employment to work life balance to relationships and general happiness. So don’t bother pointing to some multibillionaire who is also a jerk. He/she doesn’t count.

Drawing from Haden’s list as well as my own observational experience, here’s my list of the things (I think) successful people (probably) say.

“Please.” I have noticed when spending time with successful people – meaning “more successful than me” – that they always say “please,” when ordering coffee, when buying something, when asking for advice or help. This is when I notice that I don’t always say “please,” even when my tone is polite. Many of us, I think, assume that “please” is implied, making it notable when one remembers to use it.

“Thank you.” Successful people say “Thank you” for favours big and small. They don’t let good deeds go unacknowledged. They say “Thank you” every day to everyone who deserves it, and to those who just might need to hear it. If you want the job, send a “Thank you” note. That’s Job Search 101.

“Yes.” I always come across these articles on “How to say ‘No,’” but that’s never been my problem. My knee-jerk reaction to everything is to say “no.” I have a lot of trouble with “yes.” But, according to successful, happy people everywhere, “Yes” is far more likely to lead to good things than “No.”

Yes can require action, it can require commitment, it can require a leap of faith, and it can lead to failure, observes Grant Davis on But, it is far more likely to lead to success than “no,” which usually leads to nothing.

“I’ll do it now.” Successful people know the value of action and don’t spend their lives sitting around waiting for others to do what needs to be done.

“I don’t know.” It’s OK to admit you don’t know. Not knowing is not the same as admitting you are stupid. Do you know how much there is to know in this world? Of course there are things you don’t know. “I don’t know about that. Tell me…” will serve us all much better in the long run than bluffing.

“You’re the best.” People won’t remember what you said or what you did, as Maya Angelou once pointed out, but they will always remember how you made them feel. We should all be telling people how awesome they are every chance we get. They will remember that we made them feel good and they will feel warmly towards us (and hopefully want to help us and give us things, like jobs and promotions).

“I was wrong.” There is no winning in insisting we are right when we are not. There is plenty of ground to be gained, however, by backing off and admitting we’re wrong.

“I’m sorry.” You can deflate even the most indignant detractor with a genuine apology. They have no choice but to forgive you (unless they’re crazy) and will often feel the need to be overly generous with the forgiveness in order to regain the upper hand. We should all apologize when we’ve done something wrong. There’s even an argument to be made for apologizing when you’re not sorry.

“Can you help me?” As a control freak, I know how difficult it is to let go of the belief that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself. Successful people know the value of availing themselves of other people’s expertise and experience. Also, Jeff Haden says, “in the process you’ll show vulnerability, respect, and a willingness to listen — which, by the way, are all qualities of a great leader.” We should all ask for help when we need it.

“Let me help you.” Studies suggest that even small favours inspire disproportionately large feelings of indebtedness. Do things for others and they will do things for you. I have a friend, a very successful entrepreneur, who is always willing to help. As a result she has thousands of friends at her disposal whenever she needs anything. We should always be willing to offer our own expertise, experience and resources. We won’t always get the thanks we think we deserve, but hopefully those who matter will remember that we had their backs.

“I can improve on this.” Did you do the absolute best you can do? If not, can you do better? You probably can. There’s always room for improvement. We can always do better.

“Nothing.” Haden points out that sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. If you’re angry, upset, feeling argumentative, or don’t know what you’re talking about, for example. This is the best advice of all, I think. When in doubt, be quiet.