Ask happily married couples or longtime friends what keeps their relationships strong, and thoughtful gestures rank high on the list. “He knew I’d had a hard day at work, so he had dinner waiting when I got home.” “Even though we live far apart, she always calls me on my birthday.”
These little things—what psychologists call nourishing behaviors—mean so much because they send a powerful message. What you’re really telling the other person is, “You matter to me.” And everyone wants to hear that! But you’re so busy you can hardly keep track of the details of your own life, let alone anyone else’s. So how can you be more thoughtful?
Everyone likes having their birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones celebrated. Put these dates into your weekly planner, email or phone, with a reminder a week earlier so you have time to send a gift or a card. Or use a free website like Happybirthday.com, which stores up to 100 birthdays and reminds you via email or text message.
Set your own days to give friends and family flowers or small gifts. Most people expect to be remembered on birthdays. A surprise at another time turns an ordinary day extraordinary.
When you talk to a friend on the phone, jot down notes. Look them over the next time you two speak, and you can pick up where you left off.
Use your waiting time to reconnect. An hour till your flight? Call Mom and Dad to say hi. In a long line? Write a postcard to your college roommate. Whenever you have a free moment, think about what your loved ones are doing—it helps keep their lives fresh in your mind. Before you know it, thoughtfulness will be second nature!