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The importance of making
people feel special
I went to a funeral last weekend. The most incredible funeral I have ever been to actually (I haven’t been to many so I am using TV and movies for an expanded frame of reference – because that is real, right?). This funeral was for a man who was the minister of music/youth leader at my church as I was growing up. He and his wife also did all of the flowers for my wedding. And they crushed it if I do say so myself.
His name was Don Nixon and he was one of the most awesome people I have ever known. His funeral was not only incredible because there were Grammy winners who sang and multiple languages spoken, but because it was packed. Easily 500 people there. Don and his family had lived in several places over the last 30 years and had put together quite a following of people who adored them. He and his family made everyone feel special. I had always felt like my family had an exceptionally strong bond with Don and his family. We called each other on holidays and offered support during tough times. We travelled across state lines to visit every year or two. We talked about things that were deeper than surface level. We were special to their family and they were special to us.
The coolest thing about this funeral, was realizing that everyone (yes actually every one of the 500 people there) felt that they had the same level of relationship with Don and his family. We all felt like he thought we were the special ones. And for me, that didn’t diminish the relationship that I had with Don and his family. It just made me all the more aware of how fantastic and unique a skill Don had to make everyone feel like they were the most important person in their lives.
Wouldn’t it be cool if we could all make each and every person we encounter feel like that? Think of the impact!
I have spent the week thinking about this and trying to pinpoint the things Don did that made us all feel like we were his best friends. Because I want to live my life like that. And right now I know that is a skill that I severely lack.
So how do you make EVERYONE you meet feel special?
- Give them your FOCUS: 100% of your focus. Look people in the eyes when you speak to them. Don’t check your cell phone (that’s rude) or be making your grocery list in your head. Be completely present in your conversation. It is pretty amazing how rare it is to feel like you have someone’s undivided attention, and when you get that type of attention, you don’t easily forget it.
- Remember the details: Take note of what they are saying. If someone tells you their name, do whatever you can to help you remember that name. Repeat it to yourself, come up with a rhyme (Sara/Bara) or say it in a funny voice. Whatever works, just make an effort to remember the details. How impressed are you when someone you haven’t seen in a while remembers to ask about that big project you were working on last time you talked? It feels awesome.
- LISTEN: So often during conversations, we think about what our response will be instead of listening to what the other person is saying. I am not sure if we do that because we are selfish or because we are so worried about the awkward pause that will happen if we have to think about what to say after the other person stops talking. Either way, we can tell when someone isn’t listening to us. So.. just listen. Ok?
- Be genuine: Why do you call someone your best friend? Because they know the real you. To make someone feel important, put your walls down and be real with them. When you put up a facade, it can make others feel like you don’t believe they are worthy of knowing who you truly are. Being genuine is a gift that is free for you to give. Go for it!
- Inspire: Don was incredible at inspiring others. He created the most amazing music compositions, floral arrangements and events and they were always an inspiration on so many levels. You don’t have to bring in world-class opera singers to your funeral (yup true story) to inspire others – although that is for sure a cheat code. You can inspire people by allowing them to see your passions. Invite them in to your passions and you will inspire even further.
Ultimately, to make others feel special, you are making them feel valued by giving them your time and sincere attention. Don Nixon did that for people. He made everyone feel like he thought they were the best gift God could have sent him. To me, that was such a huge testimony. We are all such incredible creations of God and we should treat everyone that we encounter with that in mind.
Take some time this week to reflect on at least one way that you can make others feel special during your day-to-day interactions. And then go forth and make others feel like they are the highly valued God created people that they are!