Honestly, sometimes the idea of truly making a difference in the lives of others can seem daunting and unrealistic. But there are small, day-to-day changes you can make in yourself and in your behavior that will positively impact those around you. Even the smallest interaction with someone else might affect that person’s day, so focus on being a favorable influence by changing your own behaviors.
Here are some examples:
Become A Better Listener
Don’t we all wish we could do this? Remember learning about active listening in grade school? No matter how old you are, the key to listening to someone else is to focus on what he or she is saying, and let everything else—thoughts, external stimuli, opinions—go until later. One of the greatest ways you can help others is to truly listen to what they are saying. That means paying your full attention. Don’t fiddle with your phone, glance around the room, or interrupt with your own stories. You can go a step further and show that you are engaged by asking appropriate questions, or ensuring you heard correctly by repeating bits of the story back. Pay attention to your own listening habits, and make someone else happy by truly hearing her.
Hand-in-hand with listening well is communication. Make yourself an open, approachable communicator, and you’ll see the difference it makes in other people who need to talk to you. If you’re known as someone who listens well, presents ideas in a clear manner, and doesn’t judge or get defensive during hard conversations, other people will feel better around you and will be more likely to open up an honest connection. You can learn to deliver criticism or hard news in an approachable way that people will receive more easily. Along with learning what to say, pay attention to how you say it. Let go of angry words, rough gesticulations, and a harsh tone of voice.
Love Your Career
If you want to make a difference in the lives of others, your career can be a great resource. If you love your career, that natural exuberance will come across to everyone you interact with. Many career paths focus directly on helping people, and you can see your impact each day with many individuals. Careers like those in healthcare directly impact lives in a positive way. If you’re feeling stuck and want to do more for others, making the change to a career in healthcare services or criminal justice might help you become a happier person.
Telling people to practice compassion sometimes seems like an easy, empty thing to say, while the reality of truly learning to be compassionate is more difficult. But in a world that’s full of judgments and exclusivity, compassion is a main component in making a difference in others and in ourselves. Think about a time you’ve experienced compassion from someone else, like when you went to a close friend or family member with a problem, and that person listened closely and gave you empathy and support. Compassion alleviates stress and anxiety, both in the person receiving it and in the person giving it.
We all run up against people who have extremely different opinions or circumstances, and sometimes it can be hard to find common ground with these individuals. But arguing or judging won’t make you any happier, and it won’t impact that other person in a positive way, either.
Though it can be very hard to tolerate opinions you strongly disagree with, remember that everyone comes from a unique place. One opinion is not worth more or less than another, nor do those differing opinions have to negate each other. You don’t have to agree with someone to respect his or her right to hold a certain opinion. Taking the time to gain a true understanding of another person, instead of making an instantaneous judgment, will have a positive effect on you both.
While it might not seem like much, being a good listener, a compassionate communicator, and an understanding person can have a tremendous impact on those around you. Instead of leaving others frustrated or down, you’ll leave them feeling valued. So make some small changes in yourself, and see the beneficial difference it makes in others.