You know when I’m at my best? When I’m ordering coffee.
Things could be tense at home, I could be mad at my best friend, work could be stressful, I could just be having a grouchy day, and still. Still.
“How’s it going? I’ll have a medium black, please. Thank you so much. You have a great day, too!”
Most of us have the capacity to be polite, interested, borderline flirtatious. To treat people well. To manage expectations. And most of us demonstrate those qualities in certain situations–when we’re attracted to people, when we’re ordering or asking for something, when we’re in public.
We have kindness in us. We give that kindness to complete strangers everyday. We give even more kindness to the people we particularly like, or those we wish to impress. For the most part, that’s a good thing…there’s nothing wrong with being nice to people, right?
EXCEPT: If we’re polite to the guy at the cafe, if we pay attention to that girl we like at the gym, if we compliment our co-worker…and then go home and ignore or snap at our family? We’re really not winning the game. We’re not really that nice. We’re just good at faking it until people get close.
I think we could make our relationships much better if we treated the people we love as well as we treat the people we like.
Here are 4 ways to start.
1. Give patience.
The people we like don’t owe us anything. We have no real social contract with them. Because of this, we can’t get away with being impatient with them. We can’t. We would look ridiculous.
So if someone you like doesn’t text you back for awhile…well, chances are you’re just happy they answered at all. When someone you like makes an honest mistake or a slip of the tongue, you accept it with a heaping spoonful of “benefit of the doubt.” When they’re a little late, you smile because at least they showed up at all.
Yet for some reason, the people who have earned our patience are the ones we give it to the least.
I’m not saying we should let loved ones push us around, or be fake when we’re annoyed. But we do need to soften up a little with the people we love. We shouldn’t jump on them when they make a mistake, or make them suffer for our insecurities. Sometimes, we are more patient and accomodating for total strangers than we are for our own best friends. That needs to change.
2. Don’t make your bad mood their problem.
I am always in good spirits when I talk to the people I like. I may tell them that I’m “tired” or “nervous about this test” or “out-of-breath because I totally just ran for the bus, man,” but I won’t present it in a bitchy way. And I certainly won’t act like it’s their fault.
It’s harder to do this with the people we love. We know they will stick around even if we’re irritable, critical or hard to please. I think we often take advantage of that. Almost all of us have been guilty of taking out the day’s frustrations on the most well-meaning folks in our lives. That’s not cool.
None of the people you love are wholly responsible for your happiness. And none of them deserve to be punished for your unhappiness, especially if it has nothing to do with them.
(Plus, if you get upset about every…little…thing, or get cranky without cause too often, no one in your life will take your legitimate concerns seriously.)
3. Read/watch what they’re into.
If you love someone, you should read their favourite book. This is the life-rule I just made up.
(Admittedly, my personal progress on fulfilling this rule kinda sucks. My roommate’s favourite series is over 1600 pages and I am a very busy lady. But stick with me.)
We always find ourselves interested in the things that influence the people we like. We take shameless peeks at what the people we admire are reading from across the room, because cool and attractive people probably read really cool and attractive things. We click the links they share. We let their interests and recommendations silently invade our Netflix cues.
Gee, that is a great show. I enjoy similar shows. Please find me relatable and also intriguing.
This is okay, I guess, but it’s kind of weird. If you’re picking out a new book (or movie, or TV show), doesn’t it make way more sense to try one that means something to a person who really matters in your life? I mean, then you get to be entertained/enlightened and improve your relationship. I feel like that’s a pretty solid win-win.
4. Put down your phone.
I am so often checking my phone for messages from the people I like…while I am with the people I love. Not a great move, I know.
I distractedly text buddies and boys during family dinners. I read non-urgent work emails when I should be watching a movie with my friend. Too often, the vibration in my pocket trumps the person in front of me. It shouldn’t.
You don’t check your phone when you’re in the checkout, or on a date, or at a job interview. In those moments, you are focused on the individual you are with and the task at hand. You are in the moment. You are seeing the person you’re with, and they are seeing you.
The people you love deserve to be seen, too.
Be good to the people you like (hell, be good to the people you don’t like). And when you catch yourself being good to someone, hold on to that. Hold on to that courtesy, the sweetness, the attentiveness, the patience.
Hold on to it, and bring it home.