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11 Small Things Anyone (Including You!) Can Do to Make the World Better

11 Small Things Anyone (Including You!) Can Do to Make the World Better

Do you believe you’re too small to change the world? You have much more potential than you realize! Take a look at these 11 little (but important!) things that you can do to make a difference today.

1. Smile. 

It’s amazing how much a smile can make a difference in any interactions — that’s why we are told to smile before we pick up the phone! When we dig way down, we find that everyone just wants to be happy, and a smile shows just that. Smiles are contagious. What better way to spread happiness to tons of people? It doesn’t cost any money, and it’s not touchy like a hug. So, flash those pearly whites to whoever crosses your path. And if you’re just not feeling it, you know what they say: “Fake it ’til you make it!” If you smile long enough, you’ll find you can’t help feeling great.  (And to take this even farther — laugh!)

2. Listen.

This is such a biggie in this fast-paced, I-don’t-have-time-for-that world. We lend people our “ear,” but are we really listening? To be a good listener, put all of your to-do’s and opinions on the back burner and still your mind. When the person is done, respond with some of what they said, so they know that you were giving your full attention. Not so easy! But it can make a huge difference. A lot of people just want to be heard — we all have a story to tell, and we all want to feel understood. This one may take a few minutes of your time, but if you can make the effort, you can make a world of difference to another individual.

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3. Pick up after yourself.

A clear space keeps a mind clear and just looks and feels better. Have a regular place for things and keep the table and counter surfaces clear. Keep it clean outside, too. Keep your litter in the garbage can, and pick up that water bottle or soda can that someone else left behind. Know that you’re beautifying the space for yourself and others, showing that you care about your environment. How about when you’re out to eat? My family likes to stack up the menus for the waiter so they don’t have to reach around everybody at the table. We’ll sometimes stack up and pass over our plates, too. It shows you care and leaves the wait staff more time to take good care of you and the other customers. And when you’re visiting? Clean up when you’re hanging out or at a party. Offer to help take things down or clean up, and maybe even do the dishes! Work gets done faster with many hands, and an easier cleanup might encourage a host to throw another party!

4. Open the door for someone.

I think it’s so sweet when there’s a double-door situation, and the person going out and the person going in are both holding the door for each other! This is a wonderful, easy way to make someone feel special. Take that extra minute and that little bit of humility and let the other person go through first. It doesn’t matter if the person is male or female, young or old, in a wheelchair or on crutches, or toting a few kids in a stroller — it’s a wonderful gesture for any person.

5. Pay for the person behind you.

This one does involve a little cash, but it’s a wonderful, appreciated surprise when you are able to do it. And it can be as small as a toll or cup of coffee. Think about all the times you’ve had to stand or sit in line. Now think about how much you’ve hated it! Imagine finally getting to the front and then finding out someone has taken care of you. This is a powerful way to start a chain of “paying it forward.”

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6. Say please and thank you (and mean it!).

I think this is pretty self-explanatory, but it can’t be over-applied. However, it’s sometimes overlooked in service situations and in giving commands. Even if someone is serving you as part of a job, say, “Thank you.” When you are directing someone, say, “Please.” I found as a teacher that I had much better rapport with my students when I said: “Johnny, please close the door,” rather than “Johnny, close the door.” Thank the waiter for pouring you more water and for clearing your plate. Thank the cashier for handing you your bags and receipt. Yes, they have to do it —  but it’s all the better when people appreciate it.

7. Learn names and use them.

“Say my name.” They say everyone’s favorite word is their own name. When you use a person’s name you show that 1) you listened, 2) you cared enough to remember, and 3) you recognize that person’s individuality. Of course, you wouldn’t use it in every sentence, but do use it in your greeting, and throw it in here and there — then, watch the other person light up like a firefly!

8. Give encouragement.

One of my favorite teacher gifts is a small plaque that has this quote: “The finest gift you can give anyone is encouragement. Almost no one gets the encouragement they need to grow to their full potential. If everyone received the encouragement they needed to grow, the genius in most everyone would blossom and the world would prosper beyond its wildest dreams.” How powerful encouragement is! Encouragement can be anything from a simple observational compliment, to a “You can do it!” to an “I believe in you,” and even an “I love you.” The best leaders use more encouragement than criticism. The best parents and educators teach through positive reinforcement, as well as negative. And the very best encouragement we can give is sharing our unconditional acceptance and love of an individual, through all time and all circumstances.

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9. Take time for yourself.

This may sound more greedy than giving, but it’s not. Think about those times when you’ve just needed to recharge, but instead you chose to push on. You spent that extra hour. You did that extra event. How did you feel afterward? Were you really giving your full attention to that activity, to those people? This is why good businesses give their employees extra breaks and extra vacation time. We are more productive when we have a chance to relax and just be for a bit. Give yourself your full attention for a while so that you can be fully present (or attentive) for others later. Read your favorite book, take a nice shower or bath, meditate, go for that walk, or take yourself out — whatever takes your fancy! Do whatever you need to do to remind yourself that you are also important. It’s not selfish — it’s actually selfish not to!

10. Be a giver and a receiver.

First — simply put — when you can give, give. The world has a circular ebb and flow, and generosity has a way of coming back to you. This doesn’t just mean money; all of the above suggestions are different ways of giving. Holding back stops the flow. Giving starts it up again.

Just as important — receive! If you don’t accept gifts from others, you are also cutting off the stream. Every giver needs a receiver, or they can’t be a giver. If someone smiles at you, take that in and smile back! Give someone a chance to listen to you, to serve you, to open the door for you, to pay for you, to thank you, and to encourage you. Let yourself feel great for the attention, and let that other person enjoy being able to do something for another.

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11. Be yourself.

The greatest gift you can give to the world is being your true self. We get so lost in who others and society want us to be that we forget who we really are. Your presence is a gift, and you are here on this earth for a reason. Invest in discovering who you really are — what do you think, what are your passions, what excites you? And then share with the world. Giving yourself permission to be yourself allows others to do the same. Imagine how much easier and more pleasant life would would be if people would spend less time forcing themselves to be what others wanted them to be and could spend more time being who they actually are, doing what they really want to do? It can start with you!

Are you ready to make a difference? Start today!

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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