No matter how selfish our behavior, we all have a need to make a difference. A bit of an existential by-law, contribution is a right of passage when forming a legacy. Beyond that, experiencing our most expressive emotions pales in comparison to watching someone else be overwhelmed with joy and gratitude.
Shared feelings are multiplied. When we see someone else light up because of what we said or did, our emotion expands exponentially. A piece of their happiness and elation is compounded and transferred, with the cycle repeating itself for the duration of the moment. Our most powerful efforts as human beings have been collective — and that’s not changing anytime soon.
With the pace of our lives however, making a difference seems like a tall order. Unless we can capture something Insta-worthy, we often quit while we’re ahead. Excuses and considerations run amuck while we justify not going the extra mile.
Here are eight simple ways to begin moving people, wherever your starting point may be.
1. Make Eye Contact
The eyes are the gateway to the soul. If you look in someone’s eyes long enough, you start to see their story. This level of connection isn’t easily matched, given the powerful ability to make others feel less alone.
At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want?
2. Call People By Name
You’re only bad at remembering names when you say you’re bad at remembering names. This false belief gets created when you don’t care enough to listen and learn one of the most precious things to another human being.
Get outside of yourself and do whatever it takes to embed names not only in your mind, but in your heart as well.
3. Let Go Of Defensive Behavior
We all know how getting defensive is often too little, too late. This unnecessary display of insecurity is a dead giveaway to an incomplete picture of reality. Beyond that however, defensive behavior is equally detrimental to whomever’s at the mercy of it. Relationships are built on trust and trying to consistently protect your point-of-view does nothing but diminish it — it screams your personal agenda is above that of the relationship.
Taking things for what they are — a suggestion, an inquiry, a comment — will provide a much appreciated peace for the person you’re communicating with. Something you cannot afford not to give.
4. Acknowledge Little Victories
Legacies aren’t built on monumental accomplishments — they come from a culmination of small accomplishments perpetuated over time.
Every day, everyone you encounter is working towards something. Some may be more vocal and expressive regarding what’s next for them, but you can generally identify what’s important to others with a little research.
Each day is a battle for many people. Not so much because they aren’t getting anywhere in life but because most of it is going unnoticed. Being the interruption of this thinking for another person is as beautiful as it is unexpected. A simple highlight of the 5 lbs they’ve lost or consistency they’ve shown in their parenting could mean the difference between going to sleep in tears and going to sleep with warmth in their heart.
5. Showcase Honest Gratitude
Being a perfectionist essentially equates to being gutless — what’s wrong is always available and it takes no effort or skill to notice it.
Instead of obsessing over what’s imperfect, obsess over what you can thank someone for. We’re always looking for something in every moment of our lives by default. Your brain will tend to its defensive wiring if you don’t give it something more compelling to look for. Reasons to genuinely thank other people sounds like a great place to start.
Seek and you shall find.
6. Soften Your Smile
No one has this thing called life figured out. It’s daunting enough to go to the beach in a bikini, let alone make a series of well-informed decisions that need to ward off your own and others’ demise.
The big smile is great in the appropriate context, especially when it’s authentic. During the standard day-to-day however, people see right through it. The general population isn’t buying you’re that happy.
Instead, smile softer to truly connect. Decrease the weight from your face. Show them who you are. Communicate sans-speech that you’re out here winging it just like them — and it’s totally okay.
Consider this gem from Shel Silverstein as a guide,
“Underneath my outside face
There’s a face that none can see.
A little less smiley,
A little less sure,
But a whole lot more like me.”
7. Be Open To Feedback
It’s unnerving for most people to even consider providing feedback. Fear and doubt begin to circulate and the paralyzing visions of the conversation going awry eats away at their heart. Should they finally summon the courage to share what’s on their mind, they’re often met with the same destructive patterns they set out to touch on in the first place.
People can only contribute in this world to the degree we allow them to. We have the power to fill someone’s heart with confidence and hope just by dropping our attachment to being right. We must be cognizant of the world revolving around the sun — not us.
Drop your weapons and you’ll be amazed at what happens on the other side of the table.
8. Express Your Love As Often As You Can
“I love you” is not a statement solely reserved for family or significant others. It’s not said nearly enough. We have no issue saying hateful things to each other but have a massive hang-up about saying the three most powerful words in the English language.
The love we feel is a direct correlation to how open our heart is to receive it. There’s no payoff if you don’t gamble. You don’t have to come from the same bloodline or be sexually attracted to someone to tell them how much you care, nor do you need compelling timing.
Sometimes all it takes is one. Sometimes the difference in someone’s life is knowing there’s at least one person on the planet that loves them.
Don’t hold back. You might not get another chance.