I read heaps of blog posts, management articles and listen to a lot of podcasts. And for the most part I find them very inspiring and thought-provoking…. in the moment. I might mull over them for a few minutes, tweet a link to it and bookmark it on Pinboard. But more often than not that’s where my (at least conscious) engagement ends. However, I do have a collection of probably 15 or fewer pieces/talks that I recall often and talk about with other people and that really inform or affect what I do and how I do it. This is my measure of what makes a ‘good’ article/talk/post.
Sean Johnson wrote a post about his ‘eight life hacks’ on his blog over 5 years ago. I don’t know how I found it, but according to Pinboard I bookmarked it in December 2010. And it’s one of those ones that’s stuck with me. Or more specifically, one line from the post has stuck with me….
Whenever you think something great about someone, always say it.
It’s not quite the reverse of ‘whenever you think something bad about someone, never say it’ or ‘unless you have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all’, as it actually involves you taking action (rather than not doing something). And in many ways it often feels harder. I feel silly when I think about how often I’ve been reluctant to say to someone ‘I think what you’re doing is great’ for fear of what they’ll think about me. I feared being embarrassed or that they’d think I’m sucking up. But I’ve learned to let go of that fear because, as it turns out, it’s almost always it’s a massively positive and rewarding thing to do.
I now seek out opportunities to practice this advice. It might be an email to a friend to say that I was thinking about them that morning and how much I appreciate their friendship, or reaching out to the host of a podcast to let them know how much I’m enjoying what they’re doing. It’s also looking out for the good things that my husband does and making an effort not only to notice, but to comment on them, rather than just to bite my tongue at the frustrating!
Sometimes I don’t hear anything back (honestly, that’s as bad as the response gets), but on more than one occasion I’ve received a reply that said something like ‘that made my day’. When you think about it, who wouldn’t like to hear that someone else is noticing and appreciating who they are and what they do? For all the people that might be doing this noticing and appreciating though, very few are actually expressing it. For you to go to the effort to let someone know something that’s great about them is rare, and so it sets you a part and makes you memorable. As Maya Angelou said ‘…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
I’m willing to take the small risk that someone, on receipt of my email, might think that what I’ve said is soppy or sucking up, because the chance to ‘make someone’s day’ is a pretty cool chance to have.