People will forget what you said.
People will forget what you did.
But people will never forget how you made them feel.
When we think of our favorite people we are filled with a sense of being loved. While we may recall a particularly thoughtful gift that they gave us, a profound bit of advice, or an act of great kindness, the reason that we hold them in such high esteem is because of the positive feelings that being with them produces.
Imagine that a friend threw a surprise birthday party for you. They arranged a beautiful cake, invited all of your friends, decorated the venue, bought you a wonderful present, but then spent the entire evening talking on their mobile phone. Chances are you won’t remember the cake or the decor, but you will remember feeling ignored and disappointed.
I know a woman who is utterly committed to her children. She’s a stay-at-home mom by choice who is constantly in search of the best foods, best extracurricular activities, healthiest ways to communicate, and on and on. The problem is that she’s so focused on the idea of raising well-rounded children that she forgets to really be with her children. Once, for example, she was racing across town to drop one child off at ballet and the other at karate, while the whole time the children were miserable because she was berating them for eating candy and cake at a birthday party she allowed them to attend. She’s working so hard to be the perfect parent that she’s making everyone miserable (herself included, I might add) and is wholly unaware of how her well-intentioned actions are making everyone around her feel. Again, her kids won’t remember how much she ‘did’ for them, but rather how they felt while being scolded as they were racing across town to lessons that they probably could take or leave.
We try so hard to say the right things and do the right things, but often we forget to make a conscious connection to others… and that connection is where the heart of our relationships are nurtured. That connection is what people will remember; not our perfect words or actions.
If you doubt the power of making people feel good, take Rob Ford as an example. You may know him as the infamous Mayor of Toronto who inexplicably maintained approval ratings of 47% even after his many embarrassing, meth-fueled exploits. Even before becoming mayor, Ford had a long list of questionable behavior:
- arrested in Florida for drunk driving with a joint
- verbally assaulted reporters
- removed from an NHL hockey game for being belligerent and drunk
- said cyclists who are killed on the road have only themselves to blame
- suggested that city council should conduct a “public lynching” for considering a homeless shelter in his ward
How on earth did this guy get elected in the first place? Simply, he made people feel good. He personally responded to calls from citizens regarding municipal issues. He showed up at work sites, brought donuts, and chatted with the residents. If you called the city report line, Rob Ford called you back personally! In short, he demonstrated a very real interest in people and got involved with their lives in a personal way. These simple heartfelt interactions were so powerful that even though voters knew he was a belligerent, volatile alcoholic with a penchant for making public scenes, they didn’t seem to mind.
While it’s important to nurture our relationships by being aware of the feelings that we are generating for others, it is just as important to be mindful of the feelings that others are generating for us. It is good to keep in mind that feelings are fleeting – for good or for bad. We often take our emotions too seriously and this can lead us to trust the wrong people. People are often not what they appear to be. We tend to trust those that make us feel the most secure, safe, and supported. However, I have found in life these are the relationships that don’t always last. We tend to align ourselves with those who make us feel good and ignore the signs along the way that tell us this person isn’t really worthy of our trust. Just because someone makes us feel good, does not mean they are person that we can rely on when the going gets tough.
We make the assumption that everyone is just like us, when in fact we have no idea what resides in another person’s heart and mind. It is one of our greatest human misconceptions that we think everyone shares an outlook on the world that is basically similar. We intrinsically believe that how we perceive good and evil is universal, that what strikes us as tragic or hilarious will largely be the experience shared by everyone else. When you believe this, you live with a sort of built-in approval system. You feel supported and validated, under the influence of what psychologists call a “false consensus” (meaning you think everyone is just like you). To get a true compass reading on the people in your life, first let go of your belief that your values, loyalties, preferences, and behavior are ‘normal,’ and that other ‘normal’ people are pretty much the same as you. It just isn’t so!
To further emphasize my point, let’s look at a psychopath. (I know, seems extreme, but stick with me here.) One of their core characteristics is their charisma and charm; they know that making other people feel good will get them what they desire. Since psychopaths have an inability to experience empathy, those feel-good experiences are really just empty exchanges, and for them, you are a means to an end. There is no true connection or substance to those relationships.
My goal isn’t to cause you to despair or second guess your closest relationships. That isn’t the point at all! Simply, like everything, there is a positive and negative aspect that we need to be aware of in order to protect ourselves. When we understand the immense power we all have to make others feel safe, supported, and loved, then we can use this information as a means to deepen our connections with the people in our lives.
Thought Into Action
Is there a relationship in your life where perhaps you aren’t generating the feelings of support and love that you would like to? Take a moment today to really listen and connect with that person and let them know how important they are to you. So get out there and make people feel better!