You judge yourself by your intentions
Inside your head, you know exactly what you’re trying to do, at all times. I’m trying to make my partner happy. I’m trying to build a better company for my boss. I’m trying to fix the US government.
Unfortunately, no-one else sees you like this. They only see you on the outside, with your clumsy, imperfect actions. The worst of which they assume you intended.
Have you ever had someone you love not believe a word you were saying? Have you ever tried to help a child, but had them hate you for it? They don’t know – or care – what you intend. No, they judge others differently, just like you do:
We judge others by how they make us feel about ourselves
We don’t judge people – directly at least – by their intentions, actions, looks, age or whatever. Those are surface details. We judge them by how they make us feel about ourselves.
That little statement packs a lot of subtlety, so let’s unravel:
- Appreciation. Flattery never fails, so long as people (a) believe it and (b) appreciate it. People are used to compliments on their most conspicuous strength (“damn girl, you hot!”), so the best way to hit home here is to generate a genuine appreciation for people and dismiss your most superficial impressions. Imagine: what unsung compliment could someone give you now, that would make your mind explode with delight? How much would you appreciate the person who said it? Now do that to someone else.
- Association. Say you follow Morgan Freeman on Twitter. You now feel fractionally closer to someone famous, and that proximity feels good. One of the reason why celebrities are worshipped is because they can make people feel better just by letting them get close to them. Many types of association make attractive ‘gifts’ – from looks to fame to riches – people love to feel closer to them all. If you’re lucky enough to have such gifts, share them.
- Art. We love art that makes us see parts of ourselves in new lights; books, film, comedy and music that helps us feel connected, relieved, superior, vindicated, enlightened, resolute, euphoric. Note that art can still make the audience feel bad things – like sadness, or fear – it just shouldn’t make them feel bad about themselves. Even sad songs have a funny way of draining the pain from us. Can you create something that uniquely moves people? They’ll love you for it.
- Negativity. If you drain the will from others, if you tire them, or depress them, or hurt them, or make them feel less about themselves, you’ll have appeal only to people of low self worth. Most people won’t suffer this for very long.
- Resentment. If your strengths are used to make others feel inferior, you’ll be despised. You don’t have to take anything away from yourself, just don’t take away from other people.
- Empowerment. If you can make people feel stronger, smarter, more confident or otherwise better about themselves they will love you for it. We all have something to give, even if it’s simply our attention. And what is love, really, if not the unbridled attention of another?
The secret to adulation then, should you choose to pursue it, is to be clear in your intentions – but assume they will not be noticed. To pay uncommon attention to the intentions of others. But most of all: to make others feel better about themselves.
Now don’t blame me when the weight of the love letters breaks your mailbox.