Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I do to cheer people up, which has started me thinking on what particular things I like people to do to cheer me up, which has led to my writing this next installment of my user manual: Things You Can Do to Me Feel Good:
Ask Me What You Can Do
Always first and foremost, my wants and needs are dynamic, and one of the best ways to know what they are is to ask. Even if there were somehow absolutely nothing you could do to make me feel good at a particular moment, the sentiment behind asking is always nice to hear.
Offer Physical Affection
Depending on the nature of our relationship, this might mean hugs, cuddles, handholding, kisses, or sex. Hell, in the right mindset, it might even mean flogging. Whatever the particular variety of physicality is, being physical is almost always cathartic for me. Also, often, physicality can help me to express or process emotions, positive or negative.
Offer an Ear or a Shoulder
I like talking about things I’m excited about, and I like venting about things I’m frustrated about, and I like it when people are willing to listen. I think the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me when I was sorely in need of a shoulder and venting to them was “You don’t need to hold back.”
This one can take many forms; one of my favorites comes from a friend of mine from school a number of years ago. I was talking to him once after I had had a significant fight with my girlfriend at the time, and was feeling shitty about things. In consolation, he pulled a crazy straw out of his desk and gave it to me, saying in his playful-but-caring way, “Here, this symbolizes love and my wishing you good luck.”. I still have that straw. It was a simple, silly, tiny gesture that nevertheless felt meaningful, and is something I’ve done, myself, every now and then. Somehow, his expression of support became more meaningful imbued into that ridiculous straw. I’m not sure why, but silly tokens like this seem to have that effect.
Stories About Mattering
A friend of mine from college once told me that the care that I took to always ask her for consent when I wanted to be physical with her made her feel comfortable expecting that level of consent-consciousness from the other men in her life. It was an unspeakably wonderful thing to hear. One of the things I love most is hearing about how I have changed people’s lives in ways large or small. So much of the time, the impact that I have on the people around me is invisible to me, and hearing how that conversation we had six months ago changed the way you think about relationships, or how that thing I did that time made you feel warm and fuzzy – that is awesome to me. It makes me feel like I matter — like I make a difference.
Draw me a picture of how I have impacted you or changed your life in some way, and you’re almost guaranteed to make me feel good. I like general compliments, too, but things like this are the best type of compliment I can imagine.
Celebrate my accomplishments and the good things that happen in my life with me. Take me out to lunch (doesn’t have to be a nice lunch – I love burritos) when I get a new job, offer a toast to my successful completion of a project (distance is not necessarily a limit here — I really like toasting over the phone with faraway friends), call me to congratulate me on an accomplishment.
Share Secrets or Significant Moments
One of the things I really enjoy being able to do with people who know me in person and know about my blog is to tell them things about posts I have written that other people don’t know. Only a few people know the real names of the people that I wrote the “Snippets” posts about. I enjoy being the first person (or among the first or the few) to know about interesting things that have happened to people or epiphanies they’ve had. I enjoy having significant moments or thoughts shared with me, and I enjoy sharing my significant moments or thoughts with others. You only get to share something with a person the first time once. Given that, I always feel like I’m giving someone something special when I decide to share something with them first, and I like being able to give that. Being on the receiving end can feel just as good.
Share Things You Think, Notice, or Appreciate About Me
I like hearing what people think and how people feel about me (I mean, I guess assuming it’s generally positive, which if you’re a friend of mine I would hope it generally would be). How would you describe me? What do you appreciate about me? What does our friendship mean to you? What are the little things about the ways that I act or talk or listen that stand out to you? A friend of mine once told me that I always look up and to the right when I’m trying to come up with a thoughtful answer to a question. I’m not sure if this is still true or not, but I really liked hearing the observation. I find those little quirks interesting, and I like hearing about the ones that seem to be uniquely me, or that I give a uniquely noticeable character to.
The combination of myself and any particular person I spend time with is like a signature — the emergent product of our two unique personalities diffracting off one another. I find it incredibly romantic* to know what that looks like from the other person’s end.
I like sexy people and I like it when they send me pictures. There’s something about even not-intentionally-sexy naked pictures that I really enjoy. A friend of mine once sent me a picture of themselves with compliments written on their body. It remains one of my favorite pictures I have ever received. There’s something about a message written on naked skin that I find can make it feel more poetically meaningful to me. It’s probably related to the “sharing a secret” feeling. Admittedly, this particular way of making me feel good is generally most context-appropriate for partners, or at least people I share some form of mutual flirtatiousness or attraction with.
I’ve recently discovered that getting letters from people is something I enjoy, especially when the letter involves some of the types of things I’ve listed above. Writing me a letter with a story about mattering is like a combo move where I get a story about mattering (see above) in the form of a token (see above) – the letter.
That’s all I can think of at the moment. Hopefully it’s helpful information for those who know me, and a helpful model and source of ideas for writing about stuff like this for those who don’t.
*Platonically or non-platonically — romantic feelings aren’t just reserved for people I want to have relationships with. They can happen in the context of friendships, too. It’s just a different flavor of romance.