Lately I’ve heard too many stories of people being awful to each other.
I probably need to edit my news feed but it certainly feels like there is just a little more meanness around these days. Doing ‘mean’ empties our emotional buckets, whether we’re the doer or the been done to. Even if we’re not actively evil-doing, I think many of us are just going around in survival mode, too wrapped up in our own funk to give much to anyone. Or worse, are faking through life, hurting our own spirit and showing that phony facade.
We deserve more. We deserve to feel and to share awesome.
Even when I should have plenty of time on my hands, I find myself racing through each day with a to-do list that never gets done. In hopes that writing it down can make it more real, I’ve collected a few simple thoughts on how to be an addition to others’ lives without subtracting from your own.
Share Your Talent
So many of us are busy (pretending) that we’ve got it all under control that we forget to ask specialists about their trade secrets. We might free up time/money/stress by adopting a tip or bit of training from someone who is a natural.
But how many of us struggle with asking for help?
So lead by example, as the saying goes… everyone has something to learn and something to teach. Is it a skill like blog formatting and or video editing? Is it a craft like knitting? Is it a tradition like baking bread? Is it a talent like writing?
Don’t get hung up on the word “talent.” Instead – think of yourself in life-hacking terms. Are you an amazing meal planner? Do you have the most ingenious way of archiving and displaying photos? Are you a great amateur photog? Do you make amazing party food? Do you have a fool-proof method of keeping your house tidy? Have you mastered kid’s parties? Are you a self-taught home media master? EVERYONE is a genius. Share yours and be awesome to someone.
Let People Be Who They Are
This may sound more like a passive option than a simple one. It isn’t.
To let someone be who they are, you may need to adapt to their style and that requires thoughtfulness and sacrifice – at least some of the time. It means getting out of your own self-interests to recognize how other people process the world and not making them feel like an arse for that.
If you need an example, here’s mine: I am not a planner. Most of the time making plans makes me feel boxed in and trapped.
But so many of my friends and family feel very anxious about leaving plans “loose.” They like to know the process, the agenda and the order of things. To me, this feels rigid and restrictive. To them, it keeps life from spinning out into chaos and allows them a comforting feeling of control.
If I want to see them regularly, I need to commit to a date and time with enough advance that they don’t over-schedule themselves right out of my life. It may not sound like a big deal but it is. My planner friend texted me the other day a thanks for making plans with her in advance. She noticed. By planning an outing much farther out than my comfort zone prefers, I was awesome to her.
There are also times when someone’s habit just annoys the crap out of you. Making it clear to them that they make you want to pluck your hair out when they do that doesn’t fix the problem, it just empties their emotional bucket. In these times, remember: it isn’t about you and it isn’t personal. Think about WHY someone might do something and find the compassion/humor/blinders to see over and around that tick to the vulnerable human behind it. Because they are still awesome. Show them that by reducing eye-rolls and harumphs.
Give a Genuine, Spontaneous Compliment
This one comes easy for me but I see daily how difficult it is for others.
One of my many criticisms of our society is the zero-sum mentality. It is the game theory behind mean girls. It is how banksters justify their morally devoid behavior. And it is how otherwise professionals fool themselves into thinking that the ends justifies the means in their climb to the top stomping on the careers of others.
If you can only win by making others lose, you just aren’t very creative.
On my most evolved days, I am impervious to someone else’s bad mood. But when sleep, or polar vortices, or money stress or whatever creep in, I can be a sponge absorbing other people’s mess. I see it on other people too. The over-crowded bus or the 14th internal meeting request of the day can send you into the Jungle of Boo.
But watch the change on someone’s face when you mention how much you like their bag or their shoes or their style or the way they handled that call or their presence in a meeting or their patience with a child. Don’t overthink it or make a big fuss – but when something someone does catches your eye, let them know. I like to thank or complement cleaning crews or grounds keepers. There is almost always someone on the bus who has a hat or glasses or something that I admire. I don’t need anything from them, and I’m not interrupting my or their momentum. Never once has it failed to brighten someone’s face. Just maybe, their day was a little more awesome.
Ask For What You Need
This is the only simple solution that revolves around you… but it is also a way to be awesome to others.
Too many people have the romantic idea that people who love and care for you should just intuitively KNOW what you need and give it to you in the way you most need it.
No one, and I mean NO ONE, pays that much attention to you. Except maybe your kids… and that is actually a pretty good example.
If you’ve been around a two or three-year old lately (or five-six year old if the parents are indulgent jackholes), you know that fit-throwing, whining, and fake crying abound. This is because two and three year olds do not have sufficient command of language or emotion to properly eloquate what it is that they desire.
If you’re expecting magic, you are likely to be seriously disappointed and in feeling that, making those people who love and care for you feel like poop for not delivering on your expectations. Because guess what? The likely want to.
People LOVE to feel useful. Most LOVE to make others happy. But no one has time to go around wasting effort in the hopes that they do. Rather, it is the most direct path to getting and giving what is desired if you spell it out in a way that is helpful and humble. Be clear, be honest, and be practical. Give others all the tools they need to do right by you, because when they succeed, it makes them feel awesome.
Couch Your Crap
While each of us is the protagonist in our own life, we’re merely supporting characters in others’ lives. And since the grand play is all happening simultaneously, sometimes we need reminding that it isn’t all about us.
I wrote a little bit about this here, but even when there is legitimate drama, angst, and woe going on in your world, you can be awesome to others by putting your stuff on a shelf for a beat and being present for theirs.
Just like you can’t effectively listen when you’re coming up with what you want to say next, you can’t really be there for someone else when you are playing mental Stratego hoping to avoid whatever bombs are set up in your match. Press pause. Take a deep breath. And focus on someone else for as long as you can without upsetting the flow of the universe. Chances are you can return to your own bag o’ crap with a fresh perspective that might just be the solution you needed in the first place. And in the process, you were pretty awesome to someone else.
Be a Happy Memory
I don’t mean to adios yourself from someone’s life.
I mean that people sometimes need a memory jog. When you share an positive experience with someone, you two are each other’s happiness keepers. Whether that memory is 5 days or 50 years old, being reminded of it can make someone relive that emotion.
When you see an old picture of them as you’re flipping through an album, or notice a post from them on Facebook, or bump into them in the hallway, or just happen to recall that happy/funny/silly/ hilarious/charming/smart/inspiring/joyful moment you shared – let them know.
Does a certain song always remind you of a friend? Or what about a restaurant? A vacation destination? Your orange sweatshirt? In the age of constant updates, we more or less keep up on the lives of way more people than we would have without the aid of technology. Most of the time we’re just narrow-casting our lives to the audience of acquaintances (and their acquaintances, and theirs…). Being a happy memory for someone means planting and watering your positive experience with them into their “timeline” because you think it will make them smile. Maybe you call someone you haven’t seen in years or maybe you show up in an old familiar place to surprise the old crew, or maybe you just tag the guilty in a carefree picture from the past.
Post it, tweet it, email, telegraph, or smoke signal them. Do it public. Do it private. Just, you know… do it.
Remind people who gave you great memories that you shared them together. You never know who needs to know that they are in your thoughts, or that they made a difference, or even that they mattered.
That gift is yours to give for free and will make someone feel pretty damn awesome.