It’s really easy to ignore the people around you. After all, most people you see are people you will never meet. It’s easy to treat them like “extras” in a movie where you’re the star. While you’re busy living your life, they’re just there in the background, adding texture then fading into a blur.
At some point I developed a little game to help me hone in on the people around me. It’s called “What I Like About You,” and the only rule is that you have to think of something you like about every person who passes by. For every single person you see during the game, you have to come up with a mental compliment. It can be about their hair, their watch, their shoes – it doesn’t matter. The point is to pay enough attention to the people around you that you can recognize something about them that you sort of, kind of, maybe, relate to.
Yes, it’s nice to compliment people out loud – and I certainly recommend doing lots of that, too. But the point of this particular “game” is really to make you more aware of the people around you. Giving people compliments is a nice way to connect. Giving people mental compliments is a nice way to engage your own thinking. I realize it may sound superficial to focus on appearance and belongings rather than people’s personalities. But imagine, for example, that you’re on the bus, and a string of people is filing past you. Realistically, you are not going to talk to every single one or compliment each one out loud, at least not without sounding a little fake. This is an exercise to help remind you that there’s more to the world than you. And to remind you that while people may look different than you, there has to be something you can share in common. It helps keep you from getting trapped in your own little bubble of existence. After all: I may be the top billed star in my own personal life, but the scenes would be much less interesting and much less meaningful without all the “supporting actors” and “extras” around me.