The "I Love You" Habit
When was the last time you told someone that you loved them?
I'm going to guess it probably wasn't long ago. But how about this: when was the last time you told a friend that you love them? That college roommate, your running buddy from high school, your cross-country friend that you only see on Skype.
In the past few years, I've overcome my fear of "sounding creepy" with many of my closest friends and have been dropping the "I love you" bomb during almost every conversation.
To be honest, it's still weird. But you know what? I always hear "I love you" in return, and that feels amazing for everyone involved.
Doing this regularly has deepened my friendships and made me feel more warm towards people in general. It's helped me see how clearly I love and care about the people in my life, and makes my relationships even more important.
If this idea freaks you out, maybe it should - it's terrifying to get vulnerable with someone. But that's exactly why I'm recommending that you reach out to those you care most about on a regular basis to tell them you love them. Face those fears and do the thing that makes you uncomfortable.
Practice safe texts
For the sake of your own comfort and sincerity, it's fine to start off with a text or an email. Take a look at the last five people you've contacted. Is there one of them that you can share a little love with today?
A quick message to say "hey, thanks for being so supportive" or "BTW I <3 our friendship" isn't too painful. If they text back in agreement (as they likely will), you can take it a step further with "I love you" if you want.
Adding a "girl" or "man" after that statement makes it more palatable.
Again, this is weird at first. But it gets better! Starting off with this non-verbal communication of affection is a great warm-up for what is to come: the phone call.
I just called to tell you that I love you
The only phone calls we make these days are either with people we really don't want to call or people we really care about. There's no in between. Unless there is, then in that case I'm doing it wrong.
If you're sufficiently warmed up by the texting exercise, try to slip in a quick "I love you" or even a "thanks for chatting, I really appreciate it and I love talking to you."
Either way, get the word out and let this person know you're fond of them. They probably have a good idea of where your relationship stands, but a verbal reminder is always nice.
I've started to sign off my video calls with "I love you" and it's been a game changer. It's euphoric to hear someone affirm their affections to you.
Tell them you they're genuinely special to you, and chances are they'll do the same for you when you most need it.
The in-person bombshell
Just like any other habit or new venture, this is about baby steps. So take some time to get used to it before you say this in person!
It's a great way to say goodbye, but sometimes it's important to have a fully separate conversation about your feelings. (Sorry for the cheesiness, but it's true).
Great ways to start the talk:
- Hey, I just wanted to thank you...
- I know you've been having a tough time lately, but I wanted you to know...
- I just wanted you to know that our friendship means...
Make it genuine and fill it with kindness. I think of the Grinch: his heart grew three sizes the day he realized the true meaning of Christmas. That's what happens when you share your feelings in-person with your friends.
Say it every day
Once you get rolling, try to say it to someone every day. If you don't think that level of expression is appropriate for people you see every day, take it down a notch.
Tell someone they look nice, that they are doing a great job, that you appreciate their time and input. It not only makes their day, but proactive and unsolicited kindness is an essential ingredient to a positive mindset.
My sunny disposition goes into ultra-sunny mode when I make nice small talk with a stranger or text a friend to tell them how much they mean to me.
There are many people I haven't said "I love you" to in a long time. Siblings and siblings-in-law are tough, because not many people feel like that level of emotion needs to be discussed. But I think it should! My challenge to myself this year is to tell each sibling that I love them and care about them - to their face.
Break some of those shallow social stigmas to genuinely tell someone you love them today.