In the past year and half or so, I’ve been more forthcoming in my expressions of love, admiration, and regard for the people around me — from complete strangers to romantic partners.
I’ve come to the conclusion that life is short, and if you think or feel something positive about another person, you should tell them — even if it creates an awkward moment.
For me, it seems like a waste of good karma to allow loving, positive thoughts to remain locked up in my mind. Why not express them and give someone a boost and put a smile on their face?
I don’t reserve these comments just for the people in my closest circles. I speak them to anyone I encounter if there’s something positive on my mind that could brighten their day.
I’ve commented on the warm demeanor of a server in a restaurant, and I’ve told the check-out lady at the grocery store that she has beautiful eyes. I’ve thanked the mailman for his hard work and told a mom in the park how great she is with her kids.
Sometimes these people look at me like I have two heads, but once they realize I’m not a loony tune or trying to hit on them, they accept the comment and enjoy the good feeling of being told something nice with no strings attached.
I wasn’t always able to express my thoughts and feelings so readily — at the least the positive ones. As a younger person, I didn’t have the confidence to speak as freely for fear I’d be rejected or diminished in some way.
Isn’t it strange how we don’t have much trouble pointing out the negative things about others, but telling someone we like them and sharing something complimentary feels so difficult? This is particularly true in a romantic connection when you feel you have so much on the line if you say too much, too soon.
The ability to say what you feel in a non-threatening, non-creepy way is truly a gift, both for you and the other person. It reflects self-confidence and a loving spirit that builds rapport and intimacy, and it creates a ripple effect of positivity that often gets passed on by the recipient of your kind words.
Here’s how to tell someone you like them and share your warm thoughts in a confident, positive way:
With Complete Strangers
As I mentioned, I enjoy sharing my positive thoughts with the people I encounter throughout the day. It would seem a little over-the-top (and disingenuous) to say, “I like you,” to my Starbucks server.
But if you are sensitive and empathic, you can tell if someone is likable. You feel an instant affinity and connection with the person.
You can tell a stranger you like them without say those exact words. These are the occasions when you can comment on something you notice about the person.
“You have such a nice demeanor.”
“Thank you for your positive attitude.”
“You have such a friendly smile.”
When you say the words, look the person in the eye and smile at them warmly. Then just leave it at that. Too much gushing will seem creepy and weird. This is just a quick, drive-by act of kindness.
The recipient may accept the words freely, or they may deflect them with embarrassment. Either way, you have given them a simple gift and shared a moment of true connection.
Don’t allow the response to dictate your perception of how the person really feels. Everyone longs to hear positive, sincere words of affirmation.
Start paying more attention to the people around you and what you notice about them. Practice speaking up when you have a kind or positive thought. Let someone who enters your world briefly know that you see their likable, beautiful qualities and spread a little positivity.
With Your Family
More than any others, your family members should be the recipients of your kind and loving words. Though we love our family members, we often take them for granted and forget to let them know how much we like them as people, beyond the familial role they play in our lives.
There’s nothing more validating for a parent than to hear their young adult or adult child say, “Mom, you are a cool person. I really like you.” Conversely, your kids need to know that you like them and appreciate who they are as unique individuals beyond being your children.
Your siblings and extended family also will appreciate knowing that you like them, so take the time to say, “I really like you and enjoy spending time with you. You’re my brother, but you’re also a wonderful person.”
We all have family members we don’t like so much. In fact, there may be some you wouldn’t spend time with if they weren’t in your family. But you can still find something likable or positive about them (hopefully).
If so, speak your thoughts even if you don’t forge a close relationship. Sometimes people are difficult or unlikable because they feel insecure or unhappy. Your words might shift how they feel about themselves and how they respond to you.
With Close Friends
Because you get to choose your friends, and generally you choose people you like, it’s a lot easier to tell an old friend how much you like them.
You’ve built a level of trust and support that may not require words to validate the connection — but saying the words is still valuable. “I really like you. You are such a wonderful friend to me, and you are so much fun to be around. I’m grateful you’re in my life.”
My close friendships are deeply important to me, and I want my friends to know how wonderful they are and how much I value them. I don’t ever want to regret neglecting to say those words.
Of course, you show your friends how much you like and love them over time through your presence, loyalty, and support. But the spoken word has incredible power in bonding you even closer by acknowledging what you share in your friendship.
With New Friends
When you make a new friend, it takes some time to discern whether or not the connection has the makings of a long-term friendship. You don’t want to appear awkward or overly eager by telling a new friend how much you like them right off the bat.
And you don’t want to risk rejection by a potential friend if you share your feelings, and they are put off by your comments. However, most of us can tell if there’s potential with a new friend fairly quickly, and the risk of being wounded isn’t as scary as it might be with a romantic partner.
As I’m developing a new friendship, I might say something like, “I’m really enjoying getting to know you. It seems like we have a lot of things in common” — or, “You are such an interesting person. I really like spending time with you.”
These are positive, non-threatening statements that acknowledge you like this person and want to hang out with them. This new person may or may not feel the same, but you’ve offered a no-pressure opening to deepen the connection if they are interested.
Beyond words, you can also let a new friend know you like them by initiating time together, offering assistance and support, and staying in contact by phone or text.
With A Romantic Interest
When you’re in a dating situation, telling someone you like them can feel really scary. Romantic interest is entirely different from just friendship, and opening yourself up to reveal your feelings even by saying, “I really like you,” makes you feel vulnerable to rejection.
If the other person doesn’t share your attraction, the “I like you” words will very likely push them away and leave you licking your wounds.
Fortunately, we all send off plenty of non-verbal signals about our romantic attraction to another person. Before you speak the “I like you” words, look for these signs of attraction in a potential romantic partner:
open, welcoming posture
making eye contact
tilting the head in conversation
uncrossed arms and legs
blushing and flushing
feet pointed directly at you
mirroring your behavior
preening gestures (playing with hair or clothes)
Once you suspect that your attraction is reciprocated, then saying “I like you” won’t feel as risky. Be sure you consider the timing before you blurt out the words. Wait for a relaxed, enjoyable occasion where it feels natural to say, “I really like you. I have so much fun with you.” This could be after a great conversation, while taking a walk, or at the end of a really great date.
Try not to overthink or over-engineer what you’ll say or when and where you’ll say it. Saying “I like you” isn’t the same as professing your love. It’s simply an acknowledgment that you are attracted to this other person, and you suspect they are attracted to you. Trust your instincts, and say the words with casual confidence so your romantic interest doesn’t feel pressured or confused.
The point is to let this person know you enjoy them, you like who they are, and you want to spend more time together. You aren’t trying to rope them into a commitment or project into the future about your future children together.
Speaking your feelings always comes with the risk of rejection, even if you think the other person is equally attracted to you. Rejection is a possibility, and just the thought of it might make you want to keep feelings locked inside forever. But no risk, no gain.
If someone isn’t interested in you, you’ll discover it at some point. It doesn’t make you a lesser or weaker man or woman to express you like someone even if they don’t like you in the same way. It has nothing to do with you or your character. It’s simply their preferences, and they have freed you to move on to someone who does share your “like” for them.