Powerful Words


The words we use matter. Here are some examples of words or phrases that are especially powerful.

Once upon a time. The most powerful words in storytelling. No matter how long the story goes, or how complex it becomes, every story has a beginning.

You. Because in business or in life, the more you can focus your efforts on other people, the more they will care about what you say.

“Yes and …” The two words that keep improvisation going. Hint: they can also keep any conversation going.

What’s next? Because when you finish a project or complete an accomplishment, you move on to another. It’s all about process.

(See the end of this classic Roger Federer video for a great example of “What’s next?”)

You are not alone. Because this is what all of us desperately want: companionship amidst the confusion. Runner-up: “We’re all in this together.”

Now. There’s no time like the present. Because there’s plenty of time… but what if there’s not?

The end. These powerful words can be sad. Because everything has an ending—eventually—we should labor to do as much as we can, and enjoy the ride as long as we can, before it’s over.


Image: deVos

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  • Nancy says:

    I like “For example” when trying to explain a point of view or a situation that someone else can relate to.

    Thank you for the wishes Chris. Trying to stay dry here in Hoboken, NJ.

  • Patrenia says:

    My favorite listed above is “Now”. I have learned over the years that the present moment is all that there is and all that matters right now. I used to get really caught up in overwhelm by focusing on the bigger picture instead of remembering to take small steps daily. My powerful word to add? Not to get all mushy, but I’d have to say it would be…”Love”. It feels good to receive it and it definitely feels good to give it.

  • Alison Wiley says:

    My favorite of these is “yes, and”. It doesn’t take a master’s in counseling (though I happen to have one) to appreciate how much people want what they just said to be validated, acknowledged. Everyone’s hungry for that. When I’ve replaced “But” with “yes, and” — I have created many more win-win conversations with both my husband and my coworkers. That’s what I want in order to create my part of change in the world.

  • Kasey says:

    For me, and for many writers I’m sure, two of the most powerful words are “What if…” not necessarily on the page, but in your head. Those two words can open up a world of creative ideas.

  • Marshall Jones Jr. says:

    “Thank you,” but you already knew that.

  • Savvy Scot says:

    I like ‘Furthermore’ – it is really powerful at reinforcing / emphasising a point.

  • Amy Knapp says:

    This weekend the most powerful phrase in my community is, “my basement’s not flooded.” Hallelujah!

  • Dennis Perry says:

    I learned from a friend that questions area powerful way to offer someone words. Especially, “What do you want?”

  • Clayton Elliott says:

    I find “What if…?” to be a pretty powerful set of words. Especially since it relates to “Time”.

    If you ask yourself it when you’re almost out of time and it’s too late to do anything different, it can be torturous! “What if I had traveled more?” or “What if I had taken more risks and lived a bolder, unconventional life?” or “What if I had tried ____?” and so on. I know I’m bound to have some, but I want to have as few “What if’s..?” as possible before my hour glass runs out.

    On the other hand, when I say “What if…?” to myself now, I think of only possibility. “What if I quit my job and went into business for myself? What would I do?” or “What if I were to move to another city just to stir things up a bit? How might that look?”. My “What ifs” of today excite me because they’re usually followed by another question that moves me towards actualizing them. I feel I can make them all happen… But that’s assuming I have time 🙂

  • J.O says:

    I like the word “shut up” because sometimes when I am reading someone wants to bother me and they don’t stop talking.

  • Darrell West says:

    Words are truly powerful and can either launch our dreams or quickly bury them. “Yes and” has the potential to totally change the atmosphere in a conversation. I have noticed using “yes and” when discussing things with my children ( ages 13, 17 & 21) enables the conversation to take on a positive note as opposed to the negative and defensive outcome one gets when using “yes but”.

    Word matter. We have the power of life and death in the tongue (or written word) and should be careful with our words.

  • Peter Wright says:

    That is a good list, I like “what if…..” , “why…..” , “tell me more”. The first two for getting ideas to bubble to the surface, the third for keeping a conversation going.

  • Shannon says:

    “My understanding of what you just said is…” and “What is your understanding of what we just talked about?”

    Those have been huge in business and at home. I learned them in the construction business, which it was bizarre to hear phrases that I associated with counseling and emotional issues being used in a different context. Communication is communication.

  • Patrick Smith says:

    My 2 favorite words: “Great Idea”- this always leads to more talk on the possibilities we have before us, and how we will implement them!! Just like your blog- great idea!!!!!

  • Britni Danielle says:

    Words are powerful for a reason. They can make or break nations, but most importantly, people.

    My favorite? “I got you…” spoken by someone who ACTUALLY means it.

  • Tom says:

    Two of the most powerful words are always and never. Unfortunately, most of the time they are used in a negative fashion (‘you always screw that up’, ‘you never treat me the way I should be treated’).

    If used in a positive sense (‘I always live in the moment’, ‘I never fail to realize the miracle of life’) then those are some seriously powerful words…

  • Kennedy says:

    My favourite word is “yet” because it reeks (in a good way) of possibilities, goals, ambitions – “I haven’t learned that yet – but I will” or “I haven’t been there yet – but I will.”

  • Michael Todd says:

    Great article – short, simple, real. Thank you

  • Darlene says:

    “the end” really got me. We lost our 18 year old cat almost four weeks ago today and I still think she’ll come around the corner and meow at me for food or is hiding under the bed because the doorbell rang. I still sleep with my feet apart cause there’s usually a furry lump there. I hate thinking of the end of her life and I miss her terribly. My friend also lost her dad last week and my grandmother lost her partner (non married but sort of boyfriend). The end seems so final.

  • Morringhan says:

    I like “why not?” a whole lot. It keeps me motivated to do things that aren’t expected, that I simply felt like doing, simply because there wasn’t a good reason not to.

  • clement sadjere says:

    Amazing post. Though brief, but very insightful and powerful. As for me, i love the word “possible”. I see life as filled with so much possibilities. Thanks Chris

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