- Article (Original): Appreciation: The Quickest Way to Brighten Someone’s Day
- Article: Undervaluing Gratitude: Expressers Misunderstand the Consequences of Showing Appreciation
- Article: Getting the Most out of Giving: Concretely Framing a Presocial Goal Maximizes Happiness
- Article: Handwritten Thank-You Notes Have Surprising Consequences
- Article: Smiling at Strangers
Forgive typos and odd grammatical mistakes—this was transcribed using the magic of AI, and while it’s insanely awesome, it’s not perfect.
[00:00:00] On this week’s episode of the I Hear You podcast, we’re discussing 10 Ways to Brighten Someone’s Day. You’ve likely heard the phrase “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” That’s attributed to a number of different people, but I love that phrase. I love that concept, that reminder, because it’s true and it’s also easy to lose sight of.
[00:00:24] We often underestimate the impact of a simple act of kindness. And yet studies, and likely your own personal experience, have shown time and time again that as givers, we benefit almost as much, if not more, from the service as the recipients. So, in the spirit of giving, let’s dive into 10 simple ways to brighten the lives of those around you.
[00:01:07] Alright, let’s dive in.
Idea #1: Unexpected Gifts
[00:01:08] Idea number one, give simple, unexpected gifts.
[00:01:14] Most of the ideas that we’re going to talk about today require little to no money, but I want to start off with this idea first, because it’s one that’s actually had a significant impact on me.
[00:01:24] Years ago, when I was still in college, I was in the throes of finals. It was actually this time of year heading into Christmas, I had a ton going on at work and I was also working full time. I had a lot of projects to get finished up for our holiday party, and I also had finals and final projects. I was in marketing, so we had a ton of different business cases that we had to look at and recommendations and presentations to put together. I was stressed out of my mind, I’m not going to lie. And I still vividly remember I was working in a study cubicle type area up at my college, it was probably 10:30 at night and I had just finished some work stuff and I had transitioned into studying for an exam the next day.
[00:02:11] I was so exhausted, I was so tired and emotionally drained as much as I was physically. And I got up from my books and walked over and took a bathroom break. And I came back and there was a small chocolate sitting on my book.
[00:02:30] It was Ferrero Rocher, if that’s how you say it. The little gold wrapped balls of heavenly goodness sitting on my textbook. I looked around and I actually didn’t even see the chocolate on anyone else’s textbook, it was just on mine. And as simple as that was, it meant the world to me. One little piece of chocolate gave me such a feeling of hope and gratitude.
[00:02:57] I didn’t know who left it there. I didn’t even know anyone else in the study hall. But for whatever reason, somebody thought to come around and put chocolates on people’s books or at least on my book. And that brightened my whole mood. It stuck with me, it was so cool. In fact, it had such an impact on me that I resolved right then and there to pay that forward every year after. That started a tradition of mine that I love. I haven’t done it the past couple of years, but I oftentimes would go shopping in advance after I had already graduated from college and I would buy little tiny stockings with a friend or with the date or whomever, and we’d fill them with candy and then we would go to the library. We would go back to the same place that I was years prior, and we would look for people who looked stressed or would even make a game out of it. We might walk around and we would point to somebody and say, you got to find a way to sneak that stocking into their backpack without them noticing, or we wait until we see somebody get up and leave and we go put it on their book.
[00:03:59] Those little things go a long way. And it’s fun as the giver, I can tell you personally it means a lot as the receiver.
[00:04:09] So these aren’t big gifts. You don’t have to wake up early on Black Friday to go out and get the cool new toy. Simple little things, something as simple as one little piece of chocolate given to the right person at the right time can make a huge difference.
Idea #2: Write a Card or Note
[00:04:22] Idea number two, write a hand-written card or note.
[00:04:26] When was the last time you sent somebody a hand-written note? I mean, seriously, with the Internet, it’s all about messenger, text message, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. It’s almost a lost art. I frankly wonder if at any point a future generation is going to not know how to write things. All of the technology is great, and you can certainly message somebody a note of gratitude and I know that they’ll appreciate that. You can send an email or a text, but if you want to go above and beyond, consider actually writing a note. Actually going down to the store and buying a piece of stationery and writing something, it doesn’t even have to be long. And then mail it to them or hand deliver it to them if they’re nearby.
[00:05:10] A recent study published in the Journal of Psychological Success uncovered how much we undervalue the positive impacts of gratitude. I’ll summarize the study here. Participants were in three different experiments where they wrote gratitude letters and then they predicted how surprised, happy and awkward the recipients would feel. I think it’s kind of funny they threw awkward in there because, don’t we sometimes feel that way? Don’t we sometimes worry about what the other person will think if we do a random act of service? If we do write them a thank you or even say thank you? It’s kind of funny, but we do struggle with that sometimes.
[00:05:47] So they were asked to rate, okay, I’m writing this card.. Here’s how I think how surprised I think they are going to be, here’s how happy I think this is going to make them, and here’s how awkward I think they’re going to feel when they get it.
[00:05:58] Then, the recipients reported how receiving an expression of gratitude actually made them feel. And as I’m sure you can already guess, the expressers significantly underestimated how surprised recipients would be, how happy they would be, and of course, they overestimated how awkward they would feel.
[00:06:17] Now, you might think, OK, Michael, did you really have to throw a study next to that one? It kind of makes sense. Well, sure it does. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to remember, when in doubt, do the kind thing, when in doubt, write a note, say thank you. Reach out to somebody, it makes a big difference.
Idea #3: Strike Up Conversation with a Stranger
[00:06:34] Idea number three, start a conversation with a stranger.
[00:06:39] Now, I’m sure some of you are going, Oh no, no thank you. Not for me. And that’s fine. I’m not telling you that you have to go way out of your comfort zone here, or do something that you just loathe. But if you’re already a personable person, then consider this. If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that we recently shared a post about the benefits of small talk and a suggestion that’s known as the R.E.A.C.H method. It’s an acronym, R means reveal something about yourself. These are all suggestions on how you might strike up a conversation. E, Explore the other person’s interests. A, ask open ended questions that will continue the conversation. C, consciously listen for facts and feelings that the other person may share. And H, highlight similarities between the two of you.
[00:07:28] So, some tips here on how you might strike up a conversation. The one thing that it doesn’t talk about in here that I will throw in is to smile. Especially when you’re introducing yourself or when you’re striking up small talk at the grocery store.
[00:07:41] Make sure you’re smiling. Make sure the other person knows that you’re friendly, that you mean no harm. That might sound kind of funny, but this is one of those areas where we worry about things being awkward.
[00:07:51] I do this sometimes, like, why are you talking to me? I’m just here to buy bread. And yet, I’ve had some people talk to me that are just beaming. They’re just happy people and I can see that in them. And I pretty quickly get over the awkwardness and it transitions into gratitude. I actually appreciate that. I’ve just been staring at my phone, disconnected from the world. Kudos to that person for striking up a conversation, just a happy person. I like that. And in my personal opinion, I think the world needs more people like that. So, if that sounds like something you can do, by all means, do it. Strike up a friendly, kind, conversation with a stranger and see if you can brighten their day.
Idea #4: Give a *Genuine* Compliment
[00:08:29] Idea number four, compliment someone.
[00:08:33] Giving a genuine compliment is a huge boost to someone’s day. When you go out of your way to recognize somebody or to recognize something and share that with them, it really means a lot. And I imagine and hope we can all relate to that. I hope we can all agree with that.
[00:08:50] One tip here is to be specific with your compliment. Saying things like, hey, nice job, good work or you look great.. I mean, those are all nice, but they’re pretty surface level and they kind of fizzle out as quickly as they started.
[00:09:04] If you can be a little more specific, though, it makes a big difference. I shared this story on a blog that I wrote about the art of giving compliments. This was earlier this summer, I spoke at a business doing some corporate training on how to use validation in management. There was a group of about 30 or so managers there and it went very well, I was very happy about it. And afterward, I received numerous emails from participants thanking me and saying, you know, this made such a difference. I really appreciate that. So on and so forth. And those all meant a lot to me, I love getting that feedback.
[00:09:36] One email in particular stood out, though, as being especially powerful. And as I looked into it, it was because he was very specific in the feedback that he gave. He was very specific and his compliment and validating. He basically said, hey, that was fantastic. I really appreciated it. And he said, you have a way of presenting that’s just very connecting. And and your deck, your deck was on point. You really seem to have a knack for speaking, a knack for presenting and a way for unpacking difficult information in a way that’s very easy to follow. That’s detailed. And that meant so much to me because he recognized the work I put into it. Every time I do a corporate training, every time I do a keynote, I spend a lot of time tweaking the deck, tweaking the information, picking new examples so that it applies to my audience. And to have him recognize that level just meant the world to me.
[00:10:30] So, if you’re going to compliment somebody, find something specific. Dig a little deeper, because I promise you it will 10x the value and the power of your compliment.
Idea #5: Leave a Positive Review
[00:10:41] Idea number five, Write a positive review.
[00:10:46] This is near and dear to my heart. Now that I am an author, now that I’m recording a podcast, I had no idea prior to doing these things how much a positive review meant, seriously.
[00:11:00] If you think about it, we have opportunities throughout our day to spread a lot of joy in this way. Have you had a great experience with the sales clerk when you’re buying a new pair of shoes? If so, consider just asking for their manager and giving them praise. That’s one thing that I think most people, especially if you work as a customer service rep and then somebody on the phone says, can I talk to your manager? You go. Why? Because usually that means you want to complain. So if you can instead say, you’ve been fantastic, can I talk to your manager? I want to give you a compliment.
[00:11:35] That is cool. That’s something my mother taught me from an early age, I’ve heard her do it numerous times and you know, it means the world. If you stayed at a fantastic hotel and somebody went above and beyond, consider leaving a review. If you read a book and you and you want to help the author, you want to spread the good news of the book, consider writing a review. If you really like your barber or your hairdresser, go out to Google, go out to Yelp. If you liked a restaurant, go out to Yelp. Amazon, a good product, go out to Amazon. You get the idea here. But these make a big difference to the business owners, to the individuals, the authors, the artists, the people who put their heart and soul into these things. It means the world if you take a few minutes to write a positive review.
Idea #6: Introduce Yourself
[00:12:21] Idea number six, introduce yourself to a new coworker or perhaps to somebody new in your neighborhood.
[00:12:27] And if you want bonus points, even invite them out to lunch. So earlier this week, my wife and I attended a Christmas party for our neighborhood. And as we were standing, waiting for people to be seated, I noticed my wife went over and started talking to a woman that I hadn’t seen before.
[00:12:43] And she waved me over and she introduced me. Turns out this woman was new to the country, she had just moved here, new to the neighborhood, didn’t know many people. I could tell she was nervous. You know, props to her for coming to the party in the first place. I think I would have just stayed at home and watched Netflix or something, but I could tell it meant the world to her.
[00:13:02] We ended up sitting down with her, introducing her to other people, and I could tell that it really brightened her day, just that simple gesture. Going a little bit of our comfort zone, my wife walking up and introducing herself made a big difference to her in helping her enjoy the holiday season a little more.
Idea #7: Pay for Someone’s Meal or Groceries
This idea was accidentally omitted from the recording (whoops…it never even got recorded). Consider paying for the meal or coffee of the person behind you in line. This is a simple gesture that doesn’t need to cost much, but if you can spare $5-$15, it could go a long way in brightening someone’s day. I speak from experience as the recipient of such an act, and it’s quite powerful.
Idea #8: Smile at Everyone You Encounter for One Day
[00:13:21] Idea number eight, smile at everyone you encounter for one day.
[00:13:27] This is almost like a challenge, but it’s powerful. All these little things, a simple gesture such as a smile makes a huge difference because smiles are contagious, assuming they’re sincere.
[00:13:41] Although honestly, if they’re really, really bad smiles that we’re forcing, that makes people smile sometimes, too. So there’s a lot to be said for even just trying.
[00:13:50] Dr. Alex Lickerman, I hope I’m saying his name right, in a Psychology Today article, talked about how when you smile at strangers, at least in his opinion here, you’re acknowledging their humanity.
[00:14:01] And in doing so, you’re promoting peace by bringing joy to others. That sounds maybe a little foo foo, a little weird, but if you think about it, especially in today’s ever digital world, we’re all just staring at our phones most of the time. We’re not very connected to the other humans around us, so when you look at somebody in the eye and you smile at them, it says, I see you. I am acknowledging that you are there. Another human being to human being, hello. Hi. Hope you’re doing well. So it’s a small thing, but something to try here.
[00:14:37] And I think you might be surprised at how much it brightens your day as much as it does everybody else’s.
Idea #9: Talk to a Friend About Their Passion
[00:14:44] Idea number nine, ask a friend about something you know they’re passionate about, or something that you know they’re working on.
[00:14:53] I have a colleague who is very good at this. Almost every time he sees me, because we don’t see each other daily, but we see each other maybe every week or so, he bumps into me and says, Hey, how are things going with your book? He knew, years ago before I published that I was working on it because of a conversation we’d had and he always remembered to ask about it.
[00:15:12] That meant way more than I expected. And it got me wondering why, why is it that this means so much? Well, again, we all lead busy lives. So when somebody remembers something about us, especially something that we’re excited about or passionate about, that shows that they care. They care enough to take note, they care enough to follow up. And if they remember past conversations, that means that much more. So, idea number nine here is to think about something that a friend or family member is passionate about instead of just say, hey, how’s your day? Say, hey, how’s your book? Hey, how are the Eagles doing? I don’t know what it is with sports teams, whether it’s another book that they’re reading, whether it’s a project that they’re working on at work. Ask about their kids, that’s one thing that you can almost guarantee will put a smile on people’s face. Unless, of course, they’re dealing with nightmare children at the moment, then they might just vent to you. And hey, little plug there, that’s a side opportunity for you to validate them. But, when you’re asking those specific things, it gives you a chance to open up, or gives them a chance to open up and gives you a chance to connect better with that person.
Idea #10: Express Your Gratitude
[00:16:25] And finally, tip number 10. Or idea number 10, tell someone you love how grateful you are for them.
[00:16:32] Your spouse, your friend, your parent, a sibling, a teacher, a coworker. I’m not just saying to say, I love you. But be a little more specific. Say, by the way, when you did this, it really meant a lot. Thank you so much for that.
[00:16:49] Say, I really appreciate how authentic you are. I have just noticed that every time we talk, you’re sincere, you’re present and you’re listening to me and that means the world to me. Thank you.
[00:17:01] You might say, you know, I was thinking the other day about how great it is to have a friend like you. I can always confide in you, that means a lot to me and I want you to know how much I appreciate you. That is very connecting, it’s very sincere and it’s very raw and like a lot of these things, it’s unexpected and that’s what brings it power.
[00:17:22] Taking a moment to reach out to somebody and say thank you, whether it’s through earlier examples like a hand-written card, or a simple text message. Or just walking up to them, or even at the end of the day as you’re laying down to bed with your spouse and saying, hey, you know what, I love you and I love this about you, and I’m grateful for you.
[00:17:43] It’s so powerful. And it’s so needed. With all of these things that we’ve talked about, the reason that I wanted to do an episode on this is that, one, we’ve talked a lot about things to work on, emotional changes and shifts in our minds and everything that we need to look at on improving in ourselves and trying to heal relationships.
[00:18:03] But, at the end of the day, the world just needs a little more positivity. The world could always use a little more kindness.
Invitation & Wrap Up
[00:18:10] And so, my invitation to you today as we wrap up is obvious. Do something. One of these things, or any other thing to brighten someone’s day today. You may never know how much it meant to that person. They might tell you in that moment, they might write you a letter later, they might never. You might be doing it as an anonymous act of service, which is fantastic. But I guarantee it will add more light into the world. It will help them and almost certainly help you. And at this time of year, whether you’re a Christian or not, it’s an excellent reminder to look outside of yourself, to look past the expensive gifts and the crazy holiday bustle and to find simpler, which are oftentimes more meaningful, gifts to give to others. Until next week.