Imagine an invisible sign around every person's neck that says 'Make me feel important’.
On those very simple yet eloquent words (or something close) a multi-million dollar company was forged. And I reckon several hundred pink Cadillacs awarded. Because as most of us know, those words sprang from the (no doubt) fuchsia lips of Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics.
It’s a pretty fundamental yet brilliant business practice, no? If all your customers feel important, they will like you. They will like buying from you. They will feel good about giving you their money and they will always come back for more. Because we all want to feel important. We want to feel appreciated. We want to be seen.
I’m pretty sure I figured this one out at an early age. I remember seeing a sign in a clothing store, tucked beside the cash register, obviously meant for the employees – The customer is the reason for your work, not an interruption to it.
I did well working retail and I did well as a cocktail waitress because I tried to make everyone feel special. This is fairly easily accomplished with a ready smile, attentive eyes and questions. Yes. Questions. If you ask someone a question beyond “How are you today?” you will make them feel important, guaranteed. If you remember their name, what they drink, what they bought last time and their kids’ names, even more so.
When I was on the road with my band and spending a lot of time in hotels, I paid particular attention to busboys, cleaning staff, the night clerk and bellhops. The hotel manager already knew he was important and didn’t require validation from me. But much of his staff? Usually overlooked or ignored completely by paying guests and musicians alike. But not by me. Because their smiles at being acknowledged and seen was typically a bigger reward than the few bucks I made singing songs. It wasn’t about business. It was about making someone feel good. And if you can do it daily with just the tiniest amount of effort, why wouldn’t you?
Well, this is a question I might like to ask a few of my ex-beaus. Because when you think about it, the exact same philosophy applies to relationships. Only maybe times a THOUSAND! Because if you’re not making your lover feel special, if you don’t feel that your partner is worth the effort, if sticking that damn sign onto their forehead (the one that says make me feel important) and then acting on it every day isn’t high on your list of priorities, why the fuck are you in a relationship?
Take D, the guy who didn’t drink. Well heck, I don’t drink either. Juice that is. I rarely drink juice. But during the two years we were together, my fridge was constantly stocked with juice. A variety of juices. Because apart from water, that’s all he drank. I got juiced up on a weekly basis.
His place however, was always decidedly lacking in wine. If I wanted to drink wine, I brought it. So one day I said to him “Wassup with that, honey? I always have juice for you. How come you never have wine for me?” “Um … I dunno,” he replied poetically. “Good point.” But he still never bought any wine.
Then there was J, my long-distance fling. Early in our relationship we discovered that I had free long distance and he did not. So I always called him. Always. I didn’t mind, honest, but as a woman, you know that blissful feeling you get when your guy just picks up the phone and calls and surprises you because he misses you or wants to hear your voice or wants to share his day or whatever? No, neither did I because J never called.
B was a bit more distracted. Literally. The last time we had lunch out we walked the three blocks home, during which time I tried to tell him a story which obviously held some import to me. I say tried because during those three blocks B stopped to admire a trailer for sale, a classic car and somebody’s new roof. Each time he apologized for interrupting my story, but I’m going to tell you right here he did not make me feel important. He made me feel boring and redundant and then he wonders why we broke up? This honestly ain’t rocket science.
If you’re paying attention – to your own relationship and others – you will most likely readily witness this slippery slope. The relationship begins. The man talks ad nauseum about work or his hobbies or Nascar or past glories. His new lovah smiles and nods appreciatively, fully engrossed in the (boring) minutiae he is spewing. Because she is (newly) in love. Fast forward a few months and the exact same (boring) minutiae will elicit rolling eyes or a stifled yawn. Because she’s got him, damnit, and she no longer feels the need to make him feel important. I just witnessed this exact phenomenon between two young lovers. The problem is he witnessed it too, and I fear that relationship is not long for this world.
And, yes, I do understand. It goes both way. This is definitely not an exclusively male dilemma.
What’s wrong with us, people? Why is it so damn difficult for us to make the most important person in our life feel special? If Mary Kay could do it for a million potential customers, why can’t we do it for just one? And why can’t we do it every day? What do we need … a checklist?
Okay. Maybe we do, so I'll give it a go:
1. When your lover talks, listen. Then acknowledge. Ask questions, make eye contact, take a stab at undivided attention.
2. If your lover drinks beer and you don’t, buy some damn beer.
3. Check in – whether it’s a text, an email or a surprise phone call. Nothing says “You’re important” louder than knowing someone took the time out of their busy day to see how you are.
4. Pay compliments. You don’t need to get sappy or drippy or ridiculous. But a genuine well-timed compliment can change a ho-hum day to a happy one.
5. Remember the sign. The one around the neck. I guarantee if you read that sign every day – and act on that sign every day – you will not fuck up.
Hey … it worked for Mary Kay. Who knows? Maybe your lover will buy you a pink Cadillac …