Bill Kirby: Is it 'you' or 'I' that is the most important?

Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.

-- Buddha

 

Earlier this week I shared something passed along to me about the “Most Important Words List.”

Here it is:

The seven most important words are: “I made a mistake. I am sorry.”

The six most important words are: “You did a very good job.”

The five most important words are: “And what is your opinion?”

The four most important words are: “How can I help?”

The three most important words are: “I appreciate you.”

The two most important words are: “Thank you.”

The most important word is: “I.”

That is how it all came to me on a photocopied page shared by a reader, who did not sign his or her name, and whose envelope I no longer have.

Some of you, however, had a different version of The Most Important Words. In particular, you had a different ending.

One loyal, but modest, reader said she had clipped the same list from an old Ann Landers column years ago, only it reported the most important word was not “I,” but “You.”

I agreed that I liked that better, but thought I would try to find out what was right. So I went to the computer, trying to find the original source.

“Author Unknown,” wrote John C. Maxwell in his book The Power of Influence. But Maxwell repeated the same list I did, also using “I” instead of “You.”

Shane K. Andersen, in an example of Internet Bible readings, repeats the list, but at the end says the “Most Important Word is: “You,” and adds, “The least important word is: “I.”

These two alternate endings ping-pong back and forth through dozens of examples – all anonymous.

The most interesting endings seem to come from a selection offered by Tom Peters, the author of In Search of Excellence.

He offers several examples of the “Most Important Word.” They are: “No. Yes. Wow! and EXCELLENT!”

Finally, the Rev. Paul Cook wrote this: “I would add these as the Nine most important words: “I love you. I will take care of you.”

Which I guess means we have to add the Eight Most Important Words to fill out our the list. I think “One Learns Others Are More Important Than Words” will work.

 

TODAY’S JOKE: A gentleman was having some physical problems and his doctor told him that he had to drink warm water with Epsom salts one hour before breakfast. At the end of a week he returned and the doctor asked whether he was feeling better. The man said that he actually felt worse.

“Did you drink warm salt water an hour before breakfast each day?” the doc asked.

“No,” replied the man somberly, letting out a sigh. “I could only do about 15 minutes!”

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