I've always had a problem showing people I care. My friends have asked if I care about anything before, which while perhaps perceived as a compliment, is disheartening. If you’re like me, you may struggle to show the people closest to you that you do care.
Happily, like most things in life, it doesn’t have to be revolutionary. Make simple, incremental changes in a wide variety of places in your life, and it’ll all add up. Big gestures may be the glamorous things everyone notices, but it’s the consistency that matters.
7. Celebrate Their Successes.
To put it bluntly — if someone gets jealous and spiteful over your success, then they don’t care about you. They care about themselves. I’ll admit, it was hard for me to see my close friends do well for themselves after university, and I was slightly jealous. That on its own is fine. A problem arises when you act on your envy.
If you see a friend get a new job, congratulate them. Go out and celebrate. Internally, use it as motivation — an “if they can do it, I can do it” mentality.
Action tip: Go a step further than commenting on an Instagram post or replying to a tweet. Text them, ring them — put some effort in.
6. Be a Shoulder to Lean On.
Typically, advice is based on previous experiences, so in a situation where you’re not involved, it might not resonate.
To show someone you care, you don’t need to be grandiose. You need to be a verbal punching bag, allowing them to vent.
Listening is a sign of emotional intelligence that a lot of people forget. Mind Tools explains how to be an ‘active listener’:
- Look at the speaker directly.
- Put aside distracting thoughts.
- Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal!
- Avoid being distracted by environmental factors — for example, side conversations.
Show that you’re listening.
- Nod occasionally.
- Smile and use other facial expressions.
- Make sure that your posture is open and interested.
- Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, and “uh-huh.”
- Use phrases such as “I’m curious” to open them up.
- Don’t interrupt.
- Reflect on what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is…,” and “Sounds like you are saying…,” are great ways to reflect.
- Ask questions to clarify specific points. “What do you mean when you say… .” “Is this what you mean?”
Action tip: Set aside the time to listen. It’s better if you give the person you care about your undivided attention rather than a half-arsed attempt.
5. Share More.
Sharing isn’t just an act; it’s a behavior. You share a life with the people you care about, which can include a lot of things:
- How your day went
When I was a teenager, my mum would always ask me how my day went at school. I’d always reply with “alright.” When she’d press me for more details, I didn’t feel it necessary to answer and got defensive very quickly (I was rather moody).
Now, I realize how stressful it is when someone who cares about you doesn’t open up. They want to know more about you, even if it’s only a minute difference. A little detail can go a long way. If I had just told her about how my classes went, I’m sure she would have appreciated it.
These days, I need to tell her more. We don’t live together, so we aren’t as close — which is sad but something we are both working on. Sharing your life’s details, no matter how boring, is a sign you care.
Action tip: A regular phone call with your parents, or a weekly facetime. You can’t be expected to keep love ones informed 24/7, but as I said, a little goes a long way.
4. Be Proactive and Make Plans.
A combination of big and small plans is a perfect balance. In the past, I’ve made the mistake of not making plans in my relationship. It is easy to do, as you so often get caught up in life. So, plan to see a movie together. Discuss the film in-depth afterward. Go for a meal once you’re done. Relax with a pamper night before you sleep.
Go and play mini-golf, beat your girlfriend. Keep the scorecard. Stare longingly at the watch you want for Christmas before stuffing your face with an overpacked burrito. Book a holiday for the summer. Plan the meals you’ll have when you get there.
A mixture of things to look forward to is a more manageable way to show someone you care. Your partner may post a photo of a Spanish beach, but they’ll keep the face-mask selfies in their phone. It’s pretty straightforward — making a plan signifies to the other person you want to do things with them.
Action tip: Be on the lookout. Plans don’t need to be constant — we all lead busy lives. Being proactive in your caring doesn’t require much effort. Plus, the look on their face when you reveal the surprise is unmatched.
The most fun conversations I have with my closest friends is “remember when…” Those two words trigger a waterfall of memories, and before you know it, your abs are hurting from laughter.
My friends and I have known each other for ten years now, and have been close for a while. We don’t talk much, but whenever we see each other, I realize there is no need. When you are with people you care about, you’ll likely have a plethora of joyous experiences to draw from.
Whether it be the time you drove a buggy through the streets of Budapest or that time your friend fell asleep on the strip in Zante — unlocking memories shows that you still hold them close to your heart.
Action tip: If you haven’t seen someone you care about in a while, dig into a memory. It’s familiar ground and can help you move past any awkwardness.
2 . Check-in On Their Lives.
Whether you talk to them every day or once a year, checking in on someone is a certified notification of your caring. People will post about significant achievements — a new job, buying a house or getting married. They won’t post about the struggles a few weeks, months, or years later.
Unlike birthdays, Facebook doesn’t notify you when someone is going through a hard time. A simple “how are things?” can go a long way.
As I mentioned, my mum and I have slightly drifted. So, to account for our lack of time together, I am making more of an effort to check-in regularly. I’ll admit, I got into the habit of not caring while I was at university. My life back then was a bubble — completely cut off from home. So we didn’t talk much. She understood, but life has moved on. It’s time for me to do the same.
Action tip: If it’s your partner, every day. Loved ones, every week. Friends, once every few weeks. Even if it’s once, it’ll make the difference.
1. Tell Them.
Not everyone is a good communicator — me included. So plucking up the courage to outright tell someone you care can be a daunting thing. What if they don’t care? What if I come across as weird?
I’ve had one frank and honest conversation with my old school friends. We were in Budapest, drinking before we went out. As the night wore on, we began to open up a bit. We encouraged each other to speak if there ever was an issue, and it brought us closer together. Sure enough, five minutes later, my friend decided to do pull-ups hanging from the balcony, but it was progress nonetheless.
Action tip: Being drunk usually makes it easier. But, to be honest, do it whenever you want. There is no ‘right time.’ Only you will know.
“Actions speak louder than words” is correct. According to a study of 2000 people, the number one way to show someone you care is to cook them their favorite meal. I remember how giddy my girlfriend would get when I made her some chicken wraps while in quarantine, so perhaps that’s true.
I, however, propose a combination of action and words. When you do something, you’re basically saying “I care THIS much,” which is what makes gift-giving so rewarding. Actions signify how much you care; words solidify it.