Though we all want to make someone happy or smile, we get so caught up in our work, lives, and travel we don’t bother to be any nicer or do beyond what is expected of us. We keep talking of personal growth but never end up doing a thing.
I am no different and I openly talk about how my husband and I loosened up on being sweet to each other during the beginning of the lockdown to vent out a bit of pressure. But then we realized, hey, now we only got each other. There is no traffic, we can work together from home, and food is still abundant. We should sing don’t worry, be happy all day long.
Pretentious jokes and Bob Marlyn aside, making people feel better is the least we can do. As Maya Angelou rightly said,
People will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.
I have put together a list of 47 things that make people happy. These are some ideas that have helped me put a smile on people’s faces and have made them laugh or feel good.
Now not all of these ways on how to make a person happy would work for everyone. But if you can make others happy, whenever you wish, even with one of these ideas, I would hit a jackpot. Not you, I. You see? (You are making someone happy, and, in turn, you are happier, which serves my purpose.)
Now go. Read. Apply. Share. Smile.
How to Make Someone Happy.
1. Smile, often, especially at strangers.
Not in a sort of I-have-to way but in a childish, innocent, sparkly eyes manner. Your wife or friend or father would be a bit happier when they see your frequent smiles. And for strangers, think that this could be the first, and maybe the last, encounter with that person, and we at least owe each other a smile. Don’t expect a smile in reciprocation always because not everyone in the world is reading my article.
And also beware of smiling on unknown streets where men or women might interpret your smile as a romantic invitation and start following you. If someone pursues you, stop smiling and never tell anyone you smiled because I asked you to.
2. Tell your partner you love them, especially when you are angry with them.
If you have fought with your other half and you are still angry, message them and say, “I love you. PS: Still not happy with what you did.” Don’t let them stranded on the islands of guilt. Keep your arm extended towards them.
3. Always tip the bagger
In my go-to supermarket in Bengaluru, an old guy always bags my shopping. He is there even during the pandemic. Enough said.
4. Offer water to delivery stuff.
Or ask them for tea, especially if it is raining. None of the delivery guys ever accept my offer but they smile. Ask them to take care of themselves. Warn them to be careful if the stairs or the floor are wet. [Offering water to anyone who comes to your house is something I learned from my parents in India.]
5. Send a house-warming gift to a friend.
A funky coffee mug or a soft doormat or a carved book holder is a good idea. The gift doesn’t have to be expensive because the idea is to fill a friend’s new home with the warmth of old friendship.
6. Praise your housekeeper on her good work.
Tell her she does a great job. That you could not shine the house as she did even in a hundred years. Do it often. A simple thank you when the help leaves is also precious.
7. Give a gift to your housekeeper or your building guard without any occasion.
Gift something for the personal use of your helper instead of a family utility like rice and oil. Think how would you feel if you would get a kilo of rice on your birthday? So maybe the same lipstick you wear? Or the same socks? Tell them how you both have the same one now.
8. If someone is sick around you, bring one apple for them.
Doesn’t matter who the person is. And no, not the saddest apple from the basket. That red ripe one I see right there.
9. Listen to people. Let them speak even if they are talking about something you don’t care about.
After every workday, my husband just wants to quickly recap what he did during the day or want to show me the elegant website pop up he designed. Except for a few evenings when I am famished, I let him talk even if I am too tired to make any sense of the technical details that would even fly above the head of a Google scientist. I understand that he needs to get it all out or else he won’t let me eat peacefully.
Do you know that most of the time we are listening to someone we are just busy preparing a reply? Catch yourself the next time and then stop and listen.
10. At the end of the day, make a cup of chamomile tea or any other tea you like.
Drink it. This one is for you 🙂
11. Message your special recipes to your friends.
Audio record the recipe while cooking so that you always have a copy and the recipe is now easy to share, too. Let me know if you want the secrets of my mango prawns coconut curry.
12. Don’t ask the air hostess to put up your heavy suitcase.
Instead, help her.
13. Always wipe the toilet seat before leaving the public stall.
And if you finish the toilet paper, replace it, or tell the housekeeping staff. You are making countless number of people happy.
14. Offer to carry an old lady’s or an old man’s suitcase at the station or the bus stand or on the airport bus.
Imagine if it was your parents or you when you are sixty.
15. Fill your partner’s water bottle often.
A hydrated body is a happy body.
16. When you visit a grocery store or go out, ask your flatmates or roommates or people nearby if they need something, too.
Especially now more than ever. Even if they say no, still bring a bag of banana chips or a few oranges or lemons.
17. Surprise your parents with a gift without any occasion.
We don’t have to wait for a father’s day or a birthday or the new years or Diwali or Christmas to make special people happy. A gift as simple as some flavored candles also work. Especially if it is something they would never buy themselves.
18. Ask your client or boss or colleague about how they have been often.
Not just pleasantry exchanges, but share a life instance with them, get the conversation going, and they would share with you, too. We spend so much time with our colleagues or clients but generally never take a step to ask how they are and if everything is okay. The conversation doesn’t have to be too personal if you have a formal relationship but it doesn’t have to be superfluous either.
19. Instead of holding a grudge against a friend who wasn’t there at your wedding or forgot to call on your birthday, ask that friend to meet you for a coffee or a drink.
I was a major grudge reservoir but when people held grudges against me, I realized how futile the whole idea is. Sometimes we cannot be with our friends or call them or be who they expect us to be because of our own terrible circumstances. If someone keeps complaining that we weren’t there or mention our absence in a hurtful way then we won’t apologize more rigorously but we would instead retreat into our shells and become defensive. Let your dear ones make mistakes. See how much closer they get to you and happier they seem when you don’t get angry but are ready to listen to their side of the story.
Rather than giving each other more reasons to go apart, forgive.
20. Let people move in the aisle rather than first shoving your backpack in the overhead counter.
Sit down, breathe, decide what you will eat. When people have moved, then get up to put it inside. You will make so many people in the queue happy with this tiny gesture.
21. Reply to negative comments positively, especially on social media or on other public platforms.
I am not immune to receiving negative comments on some of my articles or ideas. But instead of playing the who-can-insult-harder game, I tell myself that the person who can write such a hateful comment either doesn’t know any better or is going through a hard time — none of the reasons justify me being rude to them. I am not advocating online trolling or harassment but I have realized that when I reply to people amiably in spite of their harshness, they apologize or say something nice or just feel better about the whole thing and say they will stick around to read more. And by being gentle I also escape from feeling hateful.
We are not trying to please anyone but letting people make mistakes, giving them a chance to fix them, and meanwhile not losing our own patience and sanity is the way to make everyone happy. Try replying positively to a negative comment next time and see the change.
22. Buy flowers for people around you without any occasion.
Your partner, friends, family, housekeeper, yourself, your hotel staff, your cat. Who doesn’t need some flowers?
23. Instead of saying a pompous no to a man or a woman who approaches you in a bar or a restaurant, be polite.
They are reaching out to you, ready to hand over their heart, or at least a few dinners, and you are only thinking about how better looking or better dressed you are and they don’t deserve you. Thing again. Jokes aside, remember your grandeur only holds value in the eyes of another human being. Even if their approach wasn’t the best, smile. Tell them they came off too strong.
24. Write about your bad or humiliating personal experiences online.
If need be, write anonymously. Let people know they are not the only ones getting dumped on their birthdays or they aren’t the only paranoid ones who cannot sleep with a dripping tap in the house. Your embarrassing story will definitely make somebody happy somewhere.
25. When someone drops a bag of blueberries, get down to help her pick them.
Even when the person is sturdy, but more importantly patient enough, to pick the berries herself. Don’t help her so that someone can help you pick up your nickles one rainy afternoon. Help her to be humane and to act as per the need of the hour and to see a smile come by.
26. Compliment someone dressed up. But whenever someone doesn’t dress up, compliment them even more.
You look gorgeous the way you are. Don’t ever get a facial, I don’t see any tan. This baggy top is made for you. See their confidence touch the sky. I love it when my husband tells me you don’t need to shower. If only I could reciprocate.
27. Leave a comment on the blogs or articles you read.
Sometimes a comment is enough for the writer to keep going 😉
28. Put up little bird nests in your house.
You will make the people and the birds around you so happy that they will chirp all day long.
29. When you make a mistake, forgive yourself.
Don’t scold, be gentle. This is the first tip in the how-to-be-happy course.
30. When someone makes a simple mistake, first try laughing about it.
If you laugh, the culprit would laugh with you, and chances are that she would accept her mistake. Thus you both end up happy.
31. When you don’t understand why someone is eating rice with hands on a banana leaf, don’t smirk or give a disgusted look.
Avoid smirking at a culture you don’t understand. Rather be curious and ask the people why they do what they do. Join people. Sit on that floor and scoop up some rice with your fingers. Now lick. Nothing can make others happier than seeing their culture being accepted by strangers.
32. Ask the grocery owner if he would give you overripe fruits at a discount. Then distribute those or make a fruit salad and share it with your neighbor.
Hint: Papayas are generally lying around over ripening in Asian fruit shops.
33. Create your own list of how to make people happy.
34. At a party or dinner at your friend’s house, do the dishes without anyone asking you to.
And then sneak away with a leftover bottle of wine.
35. Randomly thank friends and family.
When they ask why you are thanking them, tell them you appreciate they are around.
36. Send a book to someone you know would love it.
It is comforting to know that the copies of Shantaram I ordered for friends a lifetime ago must still be circulating around the world. Sharing our favorite book with a friend is like having an intimate conversation with them. (Here is the list of my life-changing books if you are looking for some impactful ones.)
37. When the next time you think the other person would take your advantage, ask yourself if you have a genuine reason to doubt her or you have just gotten used to being defensive.
When I am traveling, I often walk with my invisible defense shield which suggests I doubt everyone who tries to come too close. Once while strolling in the bazaar of Pushkar, an artist who ran a shop there invited me inside. I didn’t know why he was calling me so I told him I would come later. Then the next time I was in front of his shop where he sold his paintings, he again requested me to talk to him over tea. I was skeptical but I went in. While talking about life and art and Chile over masala chai, I realized that he was a sweet person, a genuine artist. I ended up feeling horrible for I was being doubtful of a man whose heart was full of gratitude and generosity. In fact, he was so pure that he should have been cautious of me. One cup of tea together and a good conversation was all he was looking for.
Not everyone is set out to hurt us. Taking care of ourselves is good but we can let the armor go once in a while. And learn and adapt and reroute. See how happy people get when they see you trust them.
38. Hug people. Caress their shoulder. Pat them on the back. Pull their cheeks.
A few things can make us as happy as a human touch can.
39. When others talk to you about a fall out with their friend or partner or parents, be on their side but suggest them to look from the other person’s perspective once.
If putting themselves in someone else’s shoes is too much at the time, suggest them to not act immediately and to take some time to cool off. Time heals and you might end up saving a relationship.
40. Light candles at dinner without any occasion.
Tell your partner he looks like a fairy.
41. Instead of judging people and writing hateful comments on their pet-give-away posts, say you support them.
Now, please hear me out before judging me. In the cat adoption groups I am a member of, I constantly read hateful comments on members’ posts which say they can’t take care of their pet anymore and are putting her up for adoption. No one listens to anyone’s reasons and people get personal. Now none of us know what is happening on the pet parents’ end and their intentions must have been nice for they did give space to a pet once. And if they are publicly giving away their fluffy balls, something must have pushed them to do so. If they have decided to give the pet once, no one can change their heart into keeping her.
Instead of putting hateful comments or suggesting the ways they can continue to keep the pet, we should respect that the pet parents are accepting their limitations and are doing the right thing by not abandoning the animal, which they might do the next time in fear of public humiliation.
People are allowed to make mistakes. While caring for the animals, don’t hate the people. They are fluffy balls too. Even humans purr when they are happy.
42. Hold the doors open for people after you, especially for men. (As everyone already does it for women, at least in an ideal world).
Smile and nod.
43. Ask the waiter/server if she has eaten.
If they would love one of your french fries. Oh, I can’t share more than one.
44. Whenever you visit home, give your parents a day off and do their chores.
Bake their favorite bread or spice up their curries.
45. Do one of these things today.
46. Forgive yourself if you don’t.
47. Share the list with a friend if you like.