… or not.
Here’s something interesting – you know those people who are always asking how your day is, what you’re up to, or asking about things you had mentioned you’d be doing? There’s a good chance these are the same people who really wish someone would show interest in their day-to-day activities, hobbies and interests. That guy who’s been going on and on about training for a marathon the last few months – and was talking last week about how excited and nervous he was to run it that weekend? He probably hoped that this week someone would ask how he did, how it went. That girl who yesterday shared how nervous she was about performing for a show last night? She probably hopes that you’ll ask her how it went. The relative that shared their excited plans about a fun vacation the were taking last week? They probably hope that you’ll ask them about it when they’re back.
Take note of the people in your life who show interest and care about how you’re doing and what you’re up to. And when you think about it – return the favor!
Scenario: A group of people from work go out to lunch. Later in the day one of them says to you “You should have come to lunch with us.” Huh? That’s an odd statement to make when you were never invited. Never assume people will feel welcome to do something with you if you haven’t actually told them that. “We’re going to lunch” is very different from “We’re going to lunch if anyone wants to join us.” To many people “We’re going to lunch” is just a statement and they may not feel comfortable asking if they can join you.
Similarly “you should stop by sometime” or “you need to see our place sometime” is also not an invitation, unless it’s followed up with “when can you come over?” or something similar.
Bonus tip: Adding reasons for someone not to join you can also make people feel unwelcome. “Wanna go to lunch with us? You probably wouldn’t like the food there” sounds a lot like “I feel obligated to invite you but hope you don’t come along”. A better alternative would be “Wanna go to lunch with us? It’s not great food but I’m sure you could find something you’d like” or “the food’s not great but it’d be nice to have you along.”
Something I’ve learned over many years – never expect reciprocation. Give freely and without condition your care, your time, your encouragement and your smile. When someone needs a friend be there for them. But don’t keep a mental tally and feel that they “owe you” the same in return. Not everyone functions the same way. That person you spent hours helping to fix a broken washer because they couldn’t afford a plumber but saw a YouTube clip and it looked easy to fix? Don’t expect that if your range goes up they’ll offer to come help you replace the heating elements. Some people just honestly don’t even realize when you’re asking for or need help. Or they feel unqualified to help when really just having them hold a phone with the YouTube how-to for a few minutes while your hands are trying to fit the element in would be so much help. It’s not that they don’t want to help – I think it’s more that when they’re not in need of help it doesn’t occur to them that you might, as everything is right as rain in their world.
*Bonus Pro-Tip: In spite of this always try to reciprocate. Make an extra effort to be there to help those who have helped you. It shows them that you care and appreciate the times they’ve been there for you.
*Corollary – Be aware that there will be people in your life with whom you WILL have to always be the one to keep in touch – to make plans – to suggest getting together. Some people are worth having in your life even if they make no effort to keep you in theirs. There will always be people in your life who feel that they make more effort to keep your friendship going than you do, just as you will feel there are friends that you do all the work in the relationship. It’s ideal when there’s a more equal back and forth, but that’s rarely maintained over the long term. We all have so many distractions in our lives and deal with so much. It can be hard to keep the momentum but friendships are worth the effort.
This is an important one – thank people for things they do for you, time they spend with you, etc. It’s such a small gesture but can really make someone glad that they took a moment out of their life for you. But don’t go overboard and use it too much for small trivial things as it will lose its meaning. Say thank you when someone holds a door open for you, or when someone knows you’re having a difficult time and checks in on you to be sure you’re okay or asks if you want to talk. Just remember that not all people are comfortable with saying “you’re welcome” so accept that they may say something like “no problem!” or “it’s all good!” or something similar – it means the same thing to them.