The 3 Most Powerful Words

5 Minute Coffee break is a weekly column meant to inspire you to maintain a positive outlook on life to get you through the week. Check back every Wednesday at 7:00 am for your weekly pick-me-up (caffeine not included).

What comes to your mind when I ask, “what is the most powerful three-word phrase you can think of?” I know for me, “I love you” is the first thing that comes to mind. We have been programmed to recognize “I love you” as the most important phrase in the English language. We say “I love you” to our family members, our friends, our significant others and even our pets. It encompasses the important aspects of life: compassion, understanding, support, empathy, and an emotional connection. However, I’ve come to use a phrase even more than I use “I love you.” In my mind, the most important phrase isn’t “I love you,” but “how are you?”

I am a firm believer of coffee as a morning ritual. I usually stop at a local Starbucks to grab a tall vanilla iced coffee to start my day. Occasionally, I’ll observe someone in such a rush, they don’t say “thank you,” and sometimes don’t even look at the person taking their order or preparing their morning coffee. Sometimes they are on their phone. Sometimes they just don’t seem to really care. Sometimes I just really want to yell, “BE. NICE.” I haven’t done that (yet). 

Because I’ve been on both the receiving and giving ends of customer service for 7 years, I have come to appreciate the phrase “how are you?”. It always caught me off guard when someone would ask me how I was doing when I was serving them food or cleaning their clothes. Nothing made me happier than someone who took three seconds to ask such a simple question. It was just such a change of pace. The fact that someone I didn’t know cared enough about me to ask how I was made me strangely happy and humbled. It just always made me smile.

It still takes me by surprise when I ask someone how they are and they look at me like I am the first person to ask them that morning. Sometimes they smile and say they are doing well. Sometimes they kind of take a breath and say they are doing well, when in reality you can tell they aren’t. But you can always see the gratitude in their eyes just from asking those simple words. 

“How are you” is the “I love you” for strangers. It encompasses all the emotions “I love you” does: compassion, understanding, support, empathy, and an emotional connection. Even if it’s for those ten seconds, that person will feel cared for. It’s that brief connection that says, “we’re all in this together.” What’s more reassuring than that? In three words, you can say “Good morning. I care about your day. I care about how you’re feeling.”

And that’s even better than coffee in the morning.

Have you ever experienced this, either on the receiving or giving end? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Suggestions for a future coffee break? Submit them here.


  • Reply Erin Elizabeth April 23, 2014 at 10:36 am

    “How are you is the I love you for strangers.” I love that! What a reality check and great reminder! :) Our kindness can go a long way!

  • Reply Makayla McAfee April 23, 2014 at 10:42 am

    I love that you’re doing this column. It’s great and this was an amazing first post, I can’t wait to read what else you come up with! <3


  • Reply Ellie April 23, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Omgsh, I love this!! This couldn’t be any more true! Knowing that someone wants to take just a few seconds to show they are thinking about you is the best feeling ever, especially if you’re having a tough day!

  • Reply Madeleine Wilson April 23, 2014 at 11:37 am

    I can completely relate to this! I was a barista at Starbucks for over a year and the lack of manners some people have is downright shocking. A simple “how are you” or “thank you” can go a very, very long day! Thank you so much for sharing this little bit of inspiration today, Allyssa! <3

  • Reply Allie Gillette April 24, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Love this post! I’ve been on the receiving end in customer service for like 6 years, and when people ask me how I am I’m usually thrown off it by it, but it’s nice! I always try to smile and say thank you wherever I could seriously change someone’s mood!

  • Reply Erica Ligenza April 28, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    “‘How are you’ is the ‘I love you’ for strangers.” Definitely never thought about it like this, but I love. So true! So much power lies in showing a lil’ kindness in this way…you hit the nail on the head, Lyss.


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