Usually, I use this platform to offer advice about marketing or tips on how to write better. Today, I’m here with a different kind of counsel. One capable of bringing out the best from your employees, friends, and family members, while strengthening your relationship with them.

It involves the use of a simple phrase: I’m proud of you.

It’s a phrase we don’t hear all that often as adults. And since we don’t hear it all that often, we don’t think to use it.

That’s a shame, because it has such a strong effect on any recipient. Whether it’s a five-year-old who just read a book aloud, a tween who sinks a crucial basket, or a 44-year-old employee stressed after handling a tough situation with a customer, “I’m proud of you” sparks some pretty amazing reactions.

There’s the wave of satisfaction multiplying the joy of already knowing you’ve done something well. There’s the boost of confidence silencing the internal naysayers and bracing you for the next challenge. There’s the self-respect when someone important to you notices. And there’s the deepening of your relationship with whoever uses the phrase.

While I’m no neurologist, I’m pretty confident hearing “I’m proud of you” triggers production of those happy-brain hormones like serotonin. So I’m also pretty certain it gives you all the health benefits associated with happiness, like sticking around a bit longer.

What makes “I’m proud of you” so powerful? It’s where we first heard it, from our parents, our teachers, and the other authority figures in our younger lives. We wanted to make them proud of us because we knew that would make them happy (and presumably nicer to us).

Know how you feel on those rare occasions someone tells you they’re proud of you or something you’ve done? Watch the effect it has when you make a conscious effort to do the same. Like most good things in life, it can be awkward at first, but the more you tell your kids, your partner, your siblings, your employees, and that barista who should go pro you’re proud of them, the more they’re going to enjoy those happy-brain hormones.

From an employer’s standpoint? Again, I’m no doctor, but when they’re soaking in those hormones, they sleep better and are less likely to show up with a hangover. They’re more alert, focused, and productive. Most of all, they aren’t wandering through the office looking despondent or whining in the breakroom. And you’ve earned one of the toughest qualities to gain: their genuine respect.

As a parent? Whether they’re 9 or 39, I’m pretty sure your kids can remember every time you told them you were proud of them. Feel like you’ve fallen behind? Today’s the day to start making up for it.

Why does “I’m proud of you” work so well? It lets them know you’ve noticed whatever it is they’ve done. You’re recognizing the effort and heart they poured into it … whether it was preventing that first down, performing in that recital, or making sure that weekly report is on your desk when you walk in every Monday morning. You’re acknowledging their success, who they are, and what they do. You’re letting them know you’ve seen them at their best.

And it’s so quick and simple to do.

I do have to issue a couple caveats. This only works with genuine compliments, because you’re not as good at hiding dishonesty as you think you are. And as for those who would devalue the phrase by wielding it sarcastically, nobody looks smart or superior when they do that. Use some restraint and I may even tell you I’m proud of you.

Scott Flood creates effective copy for companies and other organizations. His guide to evaluating freelance creative talent, The Smarter Strategy for Selecting Suppliers, can be downloaded at

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