First, let me admit this is an aspirational post. The first time my spouse reads this, she’ll likely think “I can’t remember when I heard any of these things from him…”
She’ll have good reason to think that. Odds are I haven’t said many of them in a long while.
I didn’t develop this post because I’ve already experienced some great rewards for the kind words I’ve used in regards to my family. I wrote this as a way of developing a plan for better communicating my care towards my family. So the following represents the 10 things I perceive my fam could use to hear from me on a more regular basis. More than likely, I’ve perceived this is what they would like to hear because these are the kinds of things I would love to hear.
1) I’m happy to see you!
When Mrs. BAD Pod and I were first wed, a dog was part of the deal. If she was moving into our home, so was the dog. I loved the woman, I tolerated the dog.
One day, I came home from a rough day of work. I think I had wasted most of the day on unfruitful projects and then sat an extra-long time in traffic. It was the kind of bad that really wasn’t a bad day—but left me feeling frustrated and persecuted. I walked in the door and received no greeting. No preparations were made for dinner—not that I really expected any, but when you’re in the victim mentality, you purposefully look for more negativity. And now it was late and there was nothing to eat. My wife wasn’t visible at all—probably upstairs primping in the bathroom, I thought. I called out “hello” and got no response. Instead, I heard a thud and the pitter-patter of small feet.
A moment later, bounding downstairs and bouncing off of walls, that little dog rushed in. Though her body was all energy, the bags under her eyes told me she’d been fast asleep. She bounced up and down with tail wagging, suggesting my arrival was the best thing that happened to her all day. Here this little creature awoke at my voice and decided the most important thing she needed to do at that moment was celebrate my presence. The dog won me over. Man, I miss that dog.
We can win our loved overs on a daily basis by sharing some enthusiasm when we see them after some separation. Sure, we’ll need to fake it on some days. That just makes it all the more meaningful.
2) I’m proud of you.
Kids and spouses need to hear this. And it’s a good idea to get in the practice of saying this in order to have a cue to remember to look for the things in our loved ones that make us proud.
3) What can I do to help?
Often, the answer to that question is going to resemble “nothing” or “not much.” But the asking of the question portrays that you’re willing to be an advocate for your loved one—you have your loved one’s back. There are times when that’s all the encouragement we need, isn’t it?
There are other times when we actually could use an extra set of hands or someone to empathetically listen. The question welcomes those moments.
4) I like your __________.
“I like the curve of your nose. I like your cute little ass.” Those are nice things to hear.
What’s really great to hear, though, are compliments for the things we really have control over. “I like the ease of your smile. I like the care you take when our kids are sick. I like when you pay attention to me. I like your commitment to the cause.” Those compliments go a long freakin’ way, because they recognize the effort being exerted by the other person. We all love to hear that there is a payoff for our efforts.
5) It’s cool. I trust you.
I have control issues. There, I said it. It’s not that I want other people to conform to my will. It’s more that I tend to take control of certain situations because I don’t trust other people to do things. My actions often communicate: I don’t trust you. Even when I do say “I’m trusting you do this,” it’s with a tone of skepticism or scolding.
For me, I need to look for opportunities to proclaim my trust in my loved ones. In other words, I need to recognize all the situations when I do trust my loved ones as opposed to concentrating on the instances when they haven’t met my trust. I have a feeling there are way, way more instances when they’ve met my trust. By recognizing all the instances they’ve met my trust, I’m likely to be more trusting.
There are some situations that are straight up out-of-bounds. For example, Mrs. BAD Pod is a recovering alcoholic—over 8 years sober. I trust her not to drink. When she goes out with friends, I trust that she’s in control to say no to drinks or to remove herself from damaging situations. I don’t trust her to drink and be in control. The boundary here is that I trust her when she has control of the situation. I don’t trust alcohol to be in control of the situation—and her drinking gives alcohol control. I do trust her to be in control.
6) Will you help me?
Alright, deep down it’s nice to be needed or wanted, isn’t it? Asking our family for help may, at times, be met with a tone of inconvenience or nuisance. That does not, however, mean that there isn’t a sense of appreciation in the recognition of being necessary to you. Your request for assistance suggests you see your family member as helpful and necessary.
7) I’m thankful for your ______________.
Sometimes I need to say this more than someone else needs to hear it. Cultivating a sense of gratitude for the people around me reminds me of the goodness they bring into my life. I know life is better with my family. Now it’s time to tell them how.
8) You’re interesting to me.
I’m having to cultivate this one–especially since my son is so fascinated with online video game play and the Youtubers who promote it. I personally would rather listen to silence than to hear about their made up alternate universes–which he enjoys telling me about… in great detail.
Just because I don’t find information about the latest season of Fortnite interesting, does not mean I don’t find my kid interesting. I’ve found a way to pivot on this is to ask my son why this stuff is so interesting to him. I’m pivoting off the topic I couldn’t care less about (Fortnite) and pivoting onto the topic I care deeply for: my son and his interests.
9) I learn from you.
Take a step off the high horse and recognize the things your family members teach you. Let them know the ways they’ve enriched and informed your life.
10) I value who you are.
Take opportunities to show appreciation for your family not just for what they offer or for who they are in relation to you… but for who they are in general:
“You’re such a compassionate person.”
“The work you do is important.”
Recognize and reinforce their passions and personal interests. It will make you a joy to be around.
Have something you’d like to say to your loved ones more often? What’s missing from the list?