No, not “I love you”. The three words I have in mind are far less intimate but much more sought after on a daily and probably hourly basis. Hearing “I love you” is great but saying or hearing “I love you” is far less common, much less useful and much more expensive than the words I’m thinking of. So what are the three little words everyone is dying to hear you say?


Yes folks, these three little words can change your life and the lives of those around you at home, in the office and anywhere else you take yourself. Occasionally it’s impossible to say “You are right” to another human being but let’s not focus on the outliers. Let’s think in general about a couple of situations where saying “You are right” or “You were right” can change the game in favor of all involved.

  • Doctor, I know this NEVER happens to you but sometimes, in my office, I say or do something that is just a little out of tune with reality. I don’t mean to, I just misunderstand or misidentify or misspeak or generally miss-up. When these circumstances arise and are identified by others or by me I get a hot feeling all over and my knee jerk reaction is to start rationalizing about how what I did or said was actually correct. Luckily, after much experience and some detailed instruction from moms, team members and my wife, I’ve learned to overcome my ego’s desire to be “right”, suppress my initial reaction and say those three little words, “You are right”. By admitting this simple truth we can reset the game and make everyone involved a winner. Not to mention that life is so much simpler when we think and act in these terms – we don’t have to remember anything if we don’t shade the truth or try to claim infallibility.
  • Not that this happens in your house, but occasionally I misunderstand or misinterpret the “facts” of a situation I think I understand. This often relates to my kids being a bit rowdy but it can also involve my wife, my in-laws, my parents or my brothers and their families. When I was young and knew everything I wouldn’t back down even when it was obvious to all involved that I was off base, but luckily I’ve since learned to say “You were right” and recover my credibility much more quickly. I’ll always make mistakes because I tend to open my mouth before my brain is fully engaged (I’m working on that but it’s a constant struggle) so I get plenty of practice in saying “You were right”. I think this is especially important for us parents to admit to our kids. For some reason there is a hesitancy for parents to admit fault to our kids but that’s silly because they can see our mistakes more plainly than most!

Now, let’s get a bit more specific on a couple common scenarios in the office where saying, “You are right” can be the difference in having a terrible day or enjoying what you do for a living.

  • “Doctor, last time we were here you said you were going to do XYZ but now you’re not doing that” mom says.
    • At this point you have two options. You can rationalize away mom’s concerns by using big words and trying to skirt the issue though she will see right through you.
    • Or you can say, “You know what mom, you are right! I totally spaced that. I’m so glad that you are here to keep me lined out! This is why we love to have parents in the back with us. I’ll take all the help I can get! Thanks so much.”
  • “I specifically told you to let me see the patient before you removed the braces so I could evaluate the space around those upper laterals” a referring dentist says to you over the phone or at a lunch meeting.
    • Here is another opportunity where you can argue the truth of this statement, argue the merits of this statement, argue about the right of the dentist to demand such things, claim ignorance or skirt the issue in any number of ways. In doing so you’ll likely lose out on referrals and still have to deal with the upset dentist on the case in question.
    • Or, you can simply say what Dr. Smith is dying to hear… YOU ARE RIGHT… and move on with your life.

I’m sure we could all list 1000 similar scenarios where we are confronted with a choice of being right or allowing others to do so (merited or not) but you are smart people and I wont’ waste your time. Just remember that saying “You were right” is free, useful, appreciated AND it becomes easy with enough practice – even for someone ads pigheaded as me!

Have a great week

4 thoughts on “The 3 Words Everyone Longs to Hear

  1. So powerful. Thank you. Not only for making me a better practitioner, but for taking the time like a caring parent and literally raising me to be a more well rounded individual.
    What you said above is SO true it almost brings tears to my eyes 😉

  2. You’re too kind! So proud of all your success. Rock on sister!

  3. This blog is awesome…. “you are right”

  4. Thanks! It’s nice to hear now and again!! Clever man.

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