Easily Make Yourself and the People Around You Happier
A tip that works in any circumstance
Building mutually beneficial relationships is the key to a productive and fulfilling life. Mutually beneficial relationships can certainly be rewarding in terms of what the other person can do for us, but more importantly, they give us the chance to serve the other person and make them feel good or happy. This act of service is what makes relationships fulfilling. We feel fulfilled when we can use our skills and talents to care for others — that’s why volunteering is so rewarding!
Deep relationships give us the most space to serve other people, since we have more time to get to know their needs, and we also spend more time around them.
But, you don’t need to have a deep relationship with someone to make them feel happy. In fact, you can employ a simple technique to make the people around you feel good, which will ultimately make you feel fulfilled.
Here it is: the simple key to quickly making anyone around you happier is to make the other person feel important. Significant. Seen.
At our core, we all want to feel important — it’s a human need. Wanting to feel significant is why we feel good when someone remembers our name, or what we are studying. Wanting to feel significant is why we might carefully choose the clothes we wear or the music we listen to. Everyone wants to feel significant.
This is a powerful realization. With this knowledge, we can easily make anyone around us happy — by making them feel significant. And, this practice works in any circumstance, across countries, cultures, and professions. You can use it with an executive, a high schooler, a plumber, a professor, etc. It is a universal tool.
How to make others feel significant
But how do you make someone feel significant? In short, find something that the other person is proud of, and compliment it or take interest in it. Or, find something about the person that they might not realize is significant or different, and tell them about it! Tell a barista that you love their tattoo, and ask them where they got it. Ask a librarian what the best book they’ve read this year is. Tell someone in an elevator that you like their shoes.
The more context you have for someone, the more personalized the compliment or interest can be. Your bid to make a close friend feel significant will be very different from your bid to make your Uber driver feel significant, for example.
The overall principle, though, is to be genuine. People can easily tell when someone is being disingenuous, and they’ll feel upset or frustrated — certainly not happy. Thankfully, if you are curious and assume everyone is interesting, you’ll never have a shortage of genuine ways to make someone feel significant.
Making others feel significant is an easy concept, but it can be a bit difficult to practice. Here are two tips that will help you develop the skill.
1. Enter the fray first
Break the conversational tension first — this takes a bit of courage, so give yourself a grace the first couple of times you try it. In any social situation there is a bit of inertia, as people are typically settled in a predictable groove of how they anticipate the interaction to go. A barista at a busy coffee shop anticipates a short encounter with a customer, just enough to get the order and payment. Someone sitting next to you at a conference expects maybe a couple pleasantries, but not much more. Social inertia is a powerful thing, but as soon as it is broken conversation typically flows easily, and both people are usually happy that the tension is broken. Be the first person to enter into the uncertainty. Give the first compliment, the first smile, or ask the first question. From there, you can ask followup questions and begin a meaningful conversation.
2. Take bets on what is important to them
Once you’ve interrupted the social inertia, you need to figure out how you’d like to show the other person that they are significant. The best way to do this is to look for something that is meaningful to this person and then compliment it or ask a question that affirms the meaningful thing as interesting. An easy way to do this is to compliment someone’s glasses, tattoo, shoes, hat, etc. Does it look like they put effort into choosing something unique and special? Tell them it is indeed unique and special. A different approach is to ask them questions about knowledge that they have and you don’t. Ask a bartender their favorite cocktail to make. Ask a plumber the trickiest job they’ve had this week. Ask a teacher their favorite part of the day. Ask someone at the gas station next to you what year their classic car is. Take small bets on what might be interesting, and take note when you are right.
Making people feel seen is a powerful tool, but it needs to be used responsibly. There are two considerations to keep in mind when you use this technique. First, be prepared for someone to be unreceptive to your bid to make them feel significant, and respect that immediately. Sometimes someone is having a bad day, stressed, or thinks you have ulterior motives. If someone is verbally or physically unreceptive to your attempt to make conversation, stop. You are not serving them by trying to continue the conversation from there. Second, the only way this tip really works to make you happier is if you are genuinely trying to make the other person happier. It’s an interesting paradox, but it’s true. As soon as you begin practicing this tip to make yourself happier, the joy and fulfillment will fade. But, if you are able to keep your motivation focused on the other person, you’ll feel happy and fulfilled.
Make yourself and others happier today
Making another person feel significant is a powerful formula that makes you both happier. You can do this in any circumstance by taking note of what is important to someone, and then breaking the conversational inertia to talk to them about it.
Although the technique takes work, you’ll be spreading and receiving joy in no time.