Be attentive to little things.
Eventually, they will be the big things;
and often, they matter the most.
As we begin discussing part 3 of this series (see: Part 1 and Part 2), we will seem to alter focus from ourselves and onto others. Regardless, this is still something that will greatly benefit you. With that said, I want to stay away from the cliché that we know as “The Golden Rule”, though that is a benefit.
In reality, politeness and social skills are useful beyond being treated well or networking.
The smallest of things can make you happier.
This Week: Socially-Focused Changes
We are beings of nature. Not everyone around you is as close or meaningful to you as your friends and family. Nevertheless, just because you aren’t so close doesn’t mean there isn’t benefit to putting effort towards being friendly to them.
Typically, these individuals would be co-workers, classmates, acquaintances, or even strangers. It is foolish to ignore these people, but not for the superficial “be kind to all others” or “networking” reasons. Interacting with these people can have great effects on your mood, as well as theirs.
Of course there must be a reason not to extend oneself, or at least not to some degree, right? It comes down to how we make our decisions through evolution – survival. There is risk in extending yourself to others, so we tend to shy away from some interactions naturally.
When discussing self- and relationship- focused activities, we discussed the development of major habits for each. Minor social nuances are important for those you have deep relationships with, they just often are more refined and naturally adept. Therefore, to simplify, this post will focus on “acquaintances” instead.
In my opinion, minor habit changes are even more difficult than major changes. It isn’t impossible to change though, of course.
Here’s a list of tips to use each day to make yourself more proficient in your social interactions.
1 – Genuinely say “Good morning” to everyone you see. In the office, in the café, on the street, and so on.
2 – Keep your fingernails trim, and your shoes polished. They are the first things people notice when meeting you.
3 – Brush your teeth before you kiss your significant other.
4 – Call people to just check-in. “How are you”, “how is the family”, “how is the job?” That’s all. No ulterior motives.
5 – Request to meet with friends and family you don’t see often enough. If they deny, at least you tried.
6 – Be polite in and out of work.
7 – Remember names. Do whatever works for you, but do it. Use pictures, associations, nicknames – whatever!
8 – Follow up on calls, even when you don’t want to.
9 – Give a hug when necessary, but only then.
10 – Be honest. Sometimes it will hurt, but in the end, honesty forces people to grow and trust.
11 – When you want to make a positive impact, write a letter. Cards are okay, so long as you don’t merely sign your name and send it off. And please, don’t send an email.
But we know these things already, right? Common sense, right? But, not common practice.
So how do we implement these minor changes?
This is the difficult part — implementation and execution. These are not earth-shattering changes, but do you do all of them? I don’t! But, I’m working on it.
Here’s some steps to get to work on building your new mini-habit:
1 – Consciously replace bad habits with good habits. You need to know why you are doing this after all, so make note of what you would do otherwise and compare. For example, what if you sent a follow-up thank you email, as opposed to a follow-up thank you card? There’s a clear distinction.
2 – Focus on one habit at a time. They say three weeks is the key, but for simplicity and effectiveness, try monthly. If you have three habits you want to work on, schedule them so one for February, one for March, and one for April. People often fail at diets because they try to adjust their food intake and their water intake and their exercise regimen all at once. It doesn’t work!
3 – Review your last habit’s progress as you plan for the next month. It is important to reflect for two reasons. First, you want to truly notice the benefit of your work. Second, you can adjust however necessary to improve this month’s habit building attempt.
4 – Stay accountable. Research shows people who share their goals are 33% more likely to accomplish them. That’s a huge return on a small investment. All you have to do is tell someone casually the type of habit you are trying to build. Make sure it is someone who will know to call you out if they have to!
5 – Be Trigger Happy. Not guns, but reminders! For me, I use IFTTT (If This Then That). You can set IFTTT up to do hundreds of different things automatically based on actions or times with “recipes”. It can send a text or email at a set time on certain days to remind you of something — maybe even just to put a smile on before you leave each morning. I used this to get into the habit of taking my mid-day vitamin just when I feel an energy drop, and for my 6pm pot of green tea. In the chaos of the world we live in, little things slip through. It’s a great tool to use, but that’s just one example. Do whatever works for you in your situation, but make sure you do this!
6 – Don’t make exceptions. Saying, “well, it doesn’t apply to this person/situation/day/whatever” is a start to losing your habit. You must be consistent, or else you will fail. Once you create an exception, you begin to think “well, if it didn’t apply to ‘x’, it shouldn’t apply to ‘y’ either.” It’s just a sure way to mess up your plans, so don’t do it. You can probably already think of some exceptions you will make under certain circumstances. Deal with those pressures now!
7 – Be ready to feel like you are failing. You are not likely to see instant results from most changes you make, even within the month you began the change. However, as you focus your attention on a new habit, you will likely notice the benefits now that you aren’t raising the expectations unreasonably high. That’s just something we naturally do, so be aware of it and you will be okay.
8 – Start now! Just run through this list and think of your habit you want to build. To simplify, (1) What are the benefits of this good habit in comparison to the bad habit it replaces? (2) Decide which single habit you will work on, and no more. (3) What worked for my last habit, and what didn’t? How can I do better this time? (4) Who will keep me accountable? (5) What trigger can I set to make sure I stay focused on my goal? (6) What are some exceptions I can already see myself making? (7) Remember that the effects will not be instant, nor earth shattering, but they exist. Revisit #1 if you need to.