Think of the last time someone you know achieved something awesome. Whether it was a promotion, a raise, an award, or something else entirely, what did you say to him or her?
Chances are, you offered a hearty “congratulations” for that accomplishment. But, if you followed that up with a seemingly complimentary phrase consisting of three small words, you could actually be undermining what you assume to be well wishes.
So, what exactly are these three words you should never say when congratulating someone on his or her success?
Wait… What’s Wrong With That?
I get it—your intentions are good. You view this phrase as an additional way to let that person know how envy-worthy his or her new situation is.
But, take a minute to picture this scenario: You’ve prepared for your very first marathon. You invested late nights, early mornings, and tons of long training runs. You ate right and skipped plenty of nights out with your friends. Put simply, you sank the entirety of yourself into that process.
So, when race day finally arrived and you actually crossed that finish line, you were overwhelmed with a sense of pride. There you were, still beaming, sweating, and basking in the glory of your major accomplishment, when a friend walked up to you and said, “You finished! You’re so lucky!”
Hearing that kind of sucks, right? It instantly deflates you. It discounts all of the hard work you put in, and instead credits your achievement to simply being fortunate—as if all you needed to do was close your eyes, click your heels together, and everything else magically fell into place.
So Much More Than Luck
In most cases, major wins—whether they’re career-related or otherwise—don’t occur simply by being in the right place at the right time. No, they’re hard-earned.
People say that doctors are so lucky to earn such huge paychecks, while neglecting to mention the years and years of education they needed to commit to—as well as the stressful, quite literally life and death work they handle each day. Teachers are so lucky to have summers off. But, that break is quite well-deserved after the long and often thankless hours they put in over the school year.
The point is this: “Lucky” might very well apply to somebody who won the lottery or narrowly missed getting hit in the head with a fly ball at a baseball game. But, when it comes to achievements and successes that require dedication, sacrifices, and plain ol’ hard work, luck really has nothing to do with it.
Congratulating someone is the polite and professional thing to do. But, trust me, it’ll hold much more impact if you stay away from mentioning how lucky that person is.
What should you say instead? Fortunately, there are tons of better options you can lean on. Try, “Congratulations, that’s awesome news!” or even a genuine, “Good for you! I know how hard you worked on that.”
Anything you can do to recognize their dedication and investment—while also congratulating their achievement—is much better than crediting their success to good fortune.
Photo of person serious courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author