I’ve decided the most important conversational phrase in the English language is “How can I help?”
I don’t come to this decision lightly. There were several others that almost made it.
“I love you” was a top contender, but it says more about my own personal feelings than my relationship to the world.
“Let me help” also didn’t make it. It focuses more on my taking control of things.
“Try this” was big, but it was more of a plea for validation than anything else. I know more than you. Listen to me and you’ll do better. Nope, at times this might be true, but it’s backwards. My relationship to knowledge is nowhere near as important as my relationship to the person I’m talking to.
“We can do better” was also easily in the top ten. I think I’ll put that at #2. It reminds me that we are all in this together, and that there is always room for growth.
Nope. “How can I help” says it just the right way. If you will tell me how you think I can help, I’m willing to give it a shot. I subvert my own interests to yours. Tell me what you’d like. How can I help?
I do a lot of things — write, speak, train, consult, coach, manage, and so forth. I find most all of them are some version of “How can I help?” I also find that when I start drifting to any of the other phrases, such as “Let me help”, or “We can do better”, I always start drifting away from the true core of what I’m doing. I become a lesser person.If you've read this far and you're interested in Agile, you should take my No-frills Agile Tune-up Email Course, and follow me on Twitter.