For years, I have unconsciously been taking note of what people do that makes me feel special. Ever since I became aware of the subtle gifts these 10 actions are, I have done best to offer them to everyone I meet. Try them and see for yourself. They are simple and easy to internalize. And I try not to be stingy: everyone deserves for us to make them feel unique!
1. Ask Them Questions About Their LifeThis may sound simple and obvious to you, and maybe it is, but I have been shocked throughout my life at how many people only know how to talk about themselves. Just ask at least 1 question and see what happens. It gets people talking about not you. Funny how that works. Go crazy and ask them a bunch of questions. And then ask follow-up questions. Don’t be afraid to say “Hey, can you tell me more about your interest in…I don’t know much about that…” You will be amazed how instantly you have invited someone into your world by asking about theirs! People are so socially unaware that often they don’t know that asking questions is the first step in building friendship and community.
2. Write and say “Thank you” instead of “Thanks”Our society has shrunk everything down to its most informal barebones and ‘Thanks’ is a perfect example. When you say “Thank you” it has a different ring to it, to me. When I hear that, I feel the person is more committed to the sentiment than if they were to just casually throw out there “thanks”. In emails/letters, particularly, say to people “Thank you for your help launching my project…” If you were to use ‘thanks’, it would just seem less full-hearted to me.
3. Give REAL hugsThis one’s easy and basically rarely done. Humans need energy and we can share it with each other. Give people hugs like you mean it, as my Mom used to say. And I am not talking about ‘man’ hugs where physical contact is like the plague. Put your arms around the person and put some intention into loving them in that moment. They may not have learned how to hug but that doesn’t mean you can’t teach them?
4. Pronounce Their Name Correctly
I can’t emphasize this one enough. Yes, for the Peter’s and Mary’s out there, this isn’t a challenge in this country, but when you meet someone who has a ‘different’ name, avoid going ‘Huh??? What was that??’ with a bitter look on your face. Yes, I have experienced that my entire life with a name like Alok Appadurai. Instead, show curiosity, ask where the name came from, and ask that they pronounce it very clearly for you, and practice saying it correctly in front of them, and verify that you are saying it right. If you forget or are unsure, ASK them, instead of just slaughtering their name. Taking the time to learn someone’s name, especially for difficult names, will instantly put you in their inner circle!
5. Remember their partner’s name
I screw this one up all the time and I am very good with remembering names. There is nothing worse than writing an old friend and not being able to remember their wife, husband, or partner’s name! Write it down, if need be.
6. Remember their kids’ names
This dovetails with #5 but deserves its own slot because, well, their kids are unique in their minds, so they should be in yours too.
7. Inquire about their family member’s interests
My dad was just with two old dear friends of his in the Boston area. The husband, who shows an amazing child-like curiosity for everything, diligently asked my father about what I was working on and thoroughly followed up on projects he remembers I was working over the last 5-10 years. It instantly wins people over when you ask after their partner’s and children’s interests, health, and dreams.
8. Look Them In The Eyes
This one goes well with #3. People are shifty and always looking all around. I notice, however, when someone can calmly sit in front of me and look me in the eyes while we speak. It instantly signifies that they are present and that they actually care about what I am saying. There is no body language more powerful than eye contact. Use it. And if you fill your eyes with compassion, even better. It resonates with people. Just be present in your eyes!
9. Respect Them As Your Complete Equal
This one is very difficult and is a daily work in progress. We live in a society that stratifies humans into layers. Think about this question: have you ever reacted to someone negatively? The answer is probably yes because we all have. Now, in your mind, close your eyes, and substitute Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama in their place. Would you still speak to them the same way you did the other person? I doubt it. Treat everyone with the same level of dignity and respect. When I used to teach at schools, the first people I made friends with were the kitchen and maintenance staffs. I learned their names, etc. Why? Because they tend to get looked down upon or ignored in schools. Say “Thank you sir/mam” to the elder generation. Things like that. Respect is so palpable!
10. Smile when you see them!
Last but not least, SMILE. When you see someone, SMILE as you are walking up to them. There is nothing more inviting than your smile. It instantly makes someone feel special. When you come home and see your partner, smile, even if it was a long day. Why? Because they care about you and will smile back, hopefully. A huge smile makes other people light up! It is a gift of energy that takes less energy than frowning. Use it often and those around you will feel unique!
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Alok helps clients all over the world build emotional brand stories, websites, and projects that make the world a better place. He believes in the power of humanity to uplift those in need, is moved by stories of human resiliency and our collective ability to overcome tremendous obstacles together. www.Alok.Life