We’ve all encountered people that rock our world for the better. When we meet such a person, we delight to be in their presence as much as possible. They inspire us to be better people ourselves by their example.
While we all may have various ideas of what qualities we admire in people, here are six characteristics that come to mind, in the form of advice I give to myself. Perhaps it will be insightful and helpful for you also.
1. Develop a Sincere Curiosity About Other People
One of my favorite authors, Jon Acuff, said in his book Start, “Assume everyone you meet is more interesting than you.” Everyone has an interesting life story, worldview and experiences, and could probably teach you a thing or two. Using this guideline as a conversational principle is the key to unlocking some amazing information from people you wouldn’t expect.
How often we do the opposite. We try to flood people with impressive information about ourselves, or regale with stories of what we’ve been up to. There’s nothing wrong with that, but putting in equal or greater effort to getting to know others often pays rich dividends.
As an introvert, I tend to listen more anyway, because I am not a big talker. Because of that, I am often fairly quiet in group conversations. I secretly delight when people ask me questions – sometimes that is the only time I talk. (An aside: My post about introverts goes into more detail about how our minds work.)
2. Workout … Your Smile Reflex
More than just a wordy way of saying “smile,” by this I mean making the act of turning that frown upside down an active habit. A big, friendly grin is such a small thing that can make such a big difference in someone’s day. It says, “Hey, I’m glad to see you!” It can be so encouraging to be on the receiving end.
There is a conversation I had with a friend when I was in junior high that I’ll never forget. I always considered myself a friendly person, and thought I was an active smiler. This friend informed me otherwise; she said I didn’t smile very much. I was stunned! It took that unfiltered feedback to realize my perception of myself was off. I realized that I had to actively work to initiate smiles. That is something I endeavor to do with consistency.
3. Listen Attentively
Not much explanation needed here. (No I am not going to break down the principles of Interpersonal Communication 101, you’re in luck.) When in conversation with someone, listen with your full attention to understand what they are saying. It shows the other person that you value and respect them.
Half listening only to formulate your response, and especially, interrupting the speaker when you have something to add to what they are saying is the opposite of respectful. To me, it is discouraging. Let’s be honest, it shows a lack of courtesy, big time. And yet, I am guilty of doing it myself so often. Remember, I am writing this post as advise to myself.
4. Remember What People Told You
One thing that blows me away in a good way almost every time is when someone asks me the latest developments in a life situation I told them about days, weeks or even months earlier. I practically recoil with startled delight. “Wow, you remember that? I am impressed!”
I truly am, and that is likely because I am so poor at this. It means so much to me when someone demonstrates that they were listening, and care enough to ask later, that I know I need to be better at it myself. To match the efforts of the most thoughtful people I know = winning in my book.
Here are a few ideas for improving on this:
- Summarize what they said before the conversation is over. “It’s been enjoyable talking with you Carrie. Sorry to hear you’ve been having back trouble. I saw an article about treating back pain recently. Let me see if I can dig it up and I’ll send it to you.”
- Write down notes or replay conversations mentally once you’re done talking. Or take notes while you’re talking. (A few of the most effective people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing make a regular habit of pulling out a piece of paper and making notes about things we are discussing.) Whichever method works better with your natural learning style is most effective. I am a note taker, so I will need to implement this strategy. But I could see how deliberately thinking back about what was said would do wonders for retention.
5. Talk Good About People Behind Their Back
Gossip is easy. Talking bad about people behind their back is a default habit, no thanks to our sin nature. How about flipping that on its head? Why not try sharing positive traits about someone to another person when they are out of earshot? It is so much more fun. It may not spread as fast as gossip, but the result is far superior.
Have you ever heard someone report something glowing about you that was uttered by another person? I have, and it is a delight to my heart. It is a gift that keeps on giving. If you know that feeling, or even if you don’t, you can be that source of delight for someone else. Try it. I dare you.
6. Notice What is Good About People and Tell Them
This builds on #5, and is admittedly something I am naturally terrible at, but at which I greatly aspire to improve. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like to be encouraged or praised. That’s probably because I doubt such a person exists.
I’m not talking about flattery or insincere or shallow compliments (e.g. “Hey, I like that sweater!” Or, “You’re the most amazing person in the world!”) Most of us can sniff out the fake stuff, and it doesn’t really accomplish anything. Other than raising suspicion of someone’s motives, in the case of flattery. Lest you misunderstand, please feel free to compliment my awesome sweater. Don’t shy away from meaningful compliments – that is what I mean.
Here are some examples.
“It must have taken a lot of courage to defend that kid against those bullies. Not many people would be willing to do that. Thank you for doing the right thing.”
“I really appreciate how you tactfully returned the floor to me when other people kept interrupting me during that meeting. Thank you.”
“You’ve really improved at _____. Keep up the great work!”
“You always work so hard at your assignments, and you have a great attitude. I am so grateful you are part of the staff.”
“I can tell you are working hard to teach your kids good manners, and it shows. The world needs more parents like you. Just wanted you to know, I noticed.”
The ripple effects in someone’s life from a sincere compliment often go further than we know. If you’re like me, you are full of admiration for many people in your life, but fear the vulnerability required to express it. I’m going to work on that – will you join me?
These six things, implemented by people in my life, have had profound positive impact on me. Those that practice some or all of these things are the type of people with whom I want to surround myself. The soul glow that these things produce inspires me to be a more thoughtful, concerned and attentive individual for those in my life.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and items you would add or subtract to the list. I always enjoy feedback. If you think this post was worthwhile, I invite you to share the link with others.
Thank you for reading!
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