This year, instead of writing down one big new year’s resolution (or several…) I wrote down several small ones that I could get done in a month or so. Some of them were very concrete (like, schedule regular hair cuts and brow waxes, LIKE AN ADULT) and others, not so much. The one I have been focusing on the last couple of weeks is being a more thoughtful person.
I’ve always been a bit of a space cadet. I forget names and birthdays, run into people while staring at my phone, blank on appointments. Sometimes I flake on my friends, or don’t follow through on… wait, what was I just saying?
Even though I’ve always had my head in the clouds (and being a daydreamer is not by any means a bad thing!), this spaciness is not my favorite trait about myself. Forgetting your best friend’s birthday again is never a cute look.
I’ve always been envious of people who not only remember birthdays, but remember to send you a card and a cute little gift, or the people who have a smile and a kind thing to say, no matter who they’re talking to. So, I wrote down a couple of the little things that these folks did for me that were impactful.
The following are a couple of those little things.
In stretching this thoughtfulness muscle, I’ve found that sometimes focusing on the needs of others before my own is a great way to get out of my own head and improve my mood. Even though a lot of these things apply to your interactions with strangers, many of them apply to your friends, family, and significant others, too, so they’ll help you put in the good work to maintaining those important relationships.
Want to learn how to be more thoughtful? Read on.
1. Remember the Important Stuff
Have you ever had someone forget the name of your significant other, your cat, your nephew, even though you’ve talked about them multiple times? It didn’t feel great, did it?
It’s important to remember people’s names and friend’s birthdays, obviously, but remembering what’s important to someone, too, will go a long way to strengthening your relationship.
Whether that’s the name of a family member, their favorite book, or their go-to order at Sbux – it doesn’t matter. Remembering those little but crucial details will make the person you’re building a relationship with feel seen and significant, which is how we all want to feel at the end of the day, right?
My best practice for this is, if I can, to write down a name as soon as I hear it along with the name of the person I’m speaking to. Repeating the name or thing back to them is also a good way to help you remember. If you’re really serious about remembering, (or you’re extremely forgetful), keeping short notes in your phone would be a great strategy, too.
2. Be Generous
I’m not just talking about money here, either. Sure, you can pay for your friend’s milkshake, but when was the last time you had a meal with someone and didn’t check your phone seven times?
Being generous with your money is a nice gesture, but being generous with your time and attention is meaningful, too.
So go to your friend’s parties. Be their cheer squad when they read their poems at open-mic night. Buy a cup of lemonade that the neighbor kid is selling. Shop at local stores when you can, and support the artists and artisans you love. Pick up a treat for your significant other just because you saw it in the store and you know it’s their favorite. Turn your phone off when you’re with the people you care about.
3. Say Something Kind (But True)
I have a friend who, when we hang out, often tells me, “You are so great. I’m glad we’re friends.” Even if I’m having the worst day, it never fails to put a smile on my face.
Tell your friends how they feel about them. Pay compliments to strangers about their hair, their skirt, their bag. Praise your coworkers for creative ideas or well-executed projects. Tell your parents or your partner that you love them. Oftentimes, we think people know how we feel based on our outward actions, but message sent isn’t always message received.
A caveat to this: do not say something just to make someone feel better if it is not true. An insincere compliment can come of as shady or mean girl-y (not cute!), and false compliments may bolster someone’s self-esteem short term, but it’s more likely to hurt them in the long run.
4. Be Aware
When you’re out and about in the world, notice what’s going on around you and how other people are moving around in the world.
Is someone coming through the door behind you? Hold the door for them. Are you and someone else walking towards a chokepoint, and one of you is going to get cut off? Let them through first. Someone walking in front of you drops their keys? Pick them up and track that person down.
Sure, you’re going to run into people who are space cases and aren’t going to repay this courtesy to you, but showing kindness and conscientiousness to strangers will not only improve your mood, but will brighten the day of anyone you encounter.
5. Stick Around Through the Tough Stuff
It is incredibly easy to be someone’s friend when they’re bright and shiny and fun, definitely totally down to check out that new brewery that opened up or marathon Stranger Things with you the moment it comes out. It’s harder to be a friend when that friend is going through crisis or dealing with some ish.
This is hard. Everyone deals with stress, grief, sadness, what have you, differently, and you may feel like your friend is suddenly different, or that they’re pushing you away. Show up for them anyway – invite them out, check in on them, bake their favorite brownies for them, offer them a shoulder to cry on, be okay with them turning you down.
If your friend is truly going through something, what they need more than anything is consistency, normalcy, and someone who is willing to give more than they get for a bit. You adding friendship drama to whatever else they’re dealing with isn’t going to help them – and, chances are, they probably have some friends who are pulling it anyway, so they need you now more than ever.
What do you think?
What do you do to practice thoughtfulness? Do you struggle with any of these? Any tips for someone trying to be more thoughtful? Let me know in the comments below!