Considerate (adjective): thoughtful of the rights and feelings of others.
But what does being considerate look like in practice?
Most of us would like to think of ourselves as considerate. But with our busy lives and hectic schedules, we often miss opportunities to demonstrate thoughtfulness in our daily lives.
Here are 11 ways to be more thoughtful and considerate of others, that can easily be implemented in your day-to-day interactions.
Few things show consideration more than giving your undivided attention to someone.
When you listen (and actually pay attention), it sends the message, ‘I’ve got time for you. Right now, you are my priority.’
And conversely, when someone is talking and you’ve got one eye on another task it says, ‘Move it along, I’ve got more important things to do.’
Not very considerate, I’m sure you’ll agree.
So next time your partner or housemate comes home from work and is telling you about their day, stop looking at your phone/ tidying the kitchen/ doing whatever it is you’re doing…and give them your full attention (even if their story is not that interesting).
Be patient and give them time to express themselves.
Yes, you have a million things to do, and it may seem a more effective use of your time to multitask, but your partner or friend will know you’re not truly listening, and they’ll feel unconsidered and unimportant as a result.
2. Show gratitude.
This one is frequently taken for granted.
Particularly in romantic and familial relationships, we fall into specific roles where we and our loved ones are expected to do certain tasks.
Perhaps your husband cooks the meals, and you do the cleaning. This arrangement works for you. And because the chores are evenly balanced, you don’t feel the need to show you are grateful (and neither does he).
Or your parents do the school run so you can work late. They love spending time with their grandchildren, and helping is what family is for, right? So you forget to show them how much you appreciate it.
But expected or not, showing someone how much you value their efforts is crucial if you want to be considerate, and it has the added bonus of really brightening their day.
No one has to do anything after all. So show appreciation for those around you and the things that they do, no matter how small.
3. Be proactive when engaging with others.
Being thoughtful is all about showing someone you are thinking of them.
So if they pop into your head, tell them!
Don’t wait for them to come home from work, or for their birthday, or for your annual Christmas catch-up. Send them a message that tells them, ‘I’m thinking about you’…even if it is via the medium of meme.
If you know your friend or co-worker is going through a rough time, don’t wait for them to bring it up (although see point 4 for a caveat on this one).
When people are experiencing difficulties, they often worry about exhausting other’s sympathy and so they keep quiet for fear of becoming a bore. Show that you are considerate of their feelings by checking in with them regularly.
You can also be proactive in your actions.
If you can see that your friend/sister/spouse/child is struggling with something, don’t wait for them to ask for help.
And don’t assume that if they don’t ask for help they don’t want or need it. Lots of people won’t ask for help for fear of being a burden.
So be proactive and see if there is anything you can do to ease their load.
4. Respect the boundaries of others.
With the best intentions, it can be easy for thoughtfulness to become thoughtlessness.
You meet up with a friend, and you want to show that you care, so you go in for a big hug.
After all, who doesn’t love a hug?
Well, your friend, apparently.
Remember that not everyone likes the same thing. What is kind and comforting to one person is intensely awkward and uncomfortable to another. So observe how your friends and loved ones behave before you act.
Do they prefer to keep their distance (and keep their hands to themselves)? Or are they tactile and intimate in their interactions?
Show your thoughtfulness by responding to them in a way that comforts them, not you.
The same goes for emotional boundaries. Some of us will happily talk about sex, personal health, bodily functions, and everything in between. Whereas others prefer to keep it clean.
So get the lay of the land before you launch into a blow-by-blow account of how last night’s curry is repeating on you.
If you struggle with this aspect of being considerate, read our article: How To Respect The Boundaries Of Others: 4 Highly Effective Tips
5. Be kind.
Shocker, I know.
Yet despite it being so blatantly obvious, we apparently need a whole movement to remind us to #BeKind.
We get so caught up in our problems and forget that everyone has their own sh*t to deal with.
Take a particularly bad morning as an example. The kids are more feral than usual, you spill your coffee, don’t have time for breakfast, miss your train, and then when someone accidentally bumps into you, it’s the final straw. Rather than saying, “It’s ok,” you glare and huff and scathe, “Watch where you’re going.”
We’ve all done it.
Only, the person who bumped us is living their own brand of hell today. They are a first-time Mom with a sick baby at home, they’ve had zero sleep, and they are desperately trying to find some Children’s Tylenol which seems to be out of stock everywhere.
And you glaring at them is now their last straw and they crumple to the floor in a heap of tears.
You never know what is going on in someone else’s life. Just as they don’t know what’s going on in yours.
So be a little kinder and a little more patient with people. Hold open doors, smile at strangers (in a non-creepy way), and when someone accidentally bumps into you and apologizes, don’t give them the stink eye.
That small act of kindness could mean more to someone than you’ll ever know.
6. Validate and empathize.
A great way to be thoughtful of others’ feelings is to validate them.
Too often we are in the habit of trying to change people’s (usually negative) feelings or make them feel better by dismissing their unpleasant experiences.
Our friend tells us about their embarrassment at making a mistake at work and we respond, “Don’t be silly, you shouldn’t feel like that, it’s not that bad.”
It’s well-meaning, and it comes from a place of love, but it’s completely invalidating and sends out the message: ‘Your feelings are wrong, and you are wrong to feel them.’
Not very thoughtful.
A more considerate approach would be to acknowledge and empathize with your friends’ feelings.
Once you’ve validated their feelings (and in turn, them) you can move on to problem-solving if that’s what they’re after. But nine times out of ten, just getting it off their chest and having someone to relate to them is resolution enough.
7. Be honest.
(But not brutally honest…)
While many of us may think it’s more considerate to tell a white lie rather than hurt our friend’s feelings, there’s a reason why they say honesty is the best policy.
You are far more likely to cultivate a relationship of trust, respect, and mutual consideration if you express your thoughts and feelings openly and honestly (whilst keeping a measure of tact of course).
So next time your friend, co-worker, or partner asks for your opinion, stop, and consider how to honestly communicate your answer whilst showing thought for their feelings.
They have asked for your perspective after all, so give them the respect they deserve by truthfully (and diplomatically) giving it to them.
If you keep in mind the other ways of showing consideration that we talk about in this article, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to speak your truth without causing offense.
But remember, your truth is exactly that: yours. Your friend, partner, or co-worker might not necessarily agree with you, but at least they’ll know that they can trust you to speak your mind.
Extra reading: 12 Reasons Why Honesty Is Important In Life
8. Remember their birthday (and other important events)!
And the other significant dates.
Nothing says, ‘I have thought about you,’ like remembering something important to your friend or loved one.
These might be the obvious ones, like birthdays and wedding anniversaries, but they can also be more subtle things, like remembering your sister has a medical appointment she’s been really worried about, or that your bestie who hates public speaking is doing a big presentation at work today.
Or maybe remembering sadder occasions like the anniversary of a death.
When you remember these significant events (and then crucially, remember to act on them), you show that you value the other person and that their feelings are important to you.
This won’t come naturally to everyone. Some people are terrible at dates or just can’t comprehend their significance, but that’s no excuse.
In fact, if your friend knows you have an awful memory, but that you’ve gone to the effort to ensure you don’t forget their birthday by plastering the refrigerator with post-it notes and your phone with reminder alarms, the thoughtfulness is even greater…and so is their appreciation.
9. Think about your actions.
And watch what you say.
Before you act or speak, stop, and think, ‘How will this affect others?’
We often make the mistake of thinking our decisions exist in a vacuum. But every action has the potential to affect others, both positively and negatively.
This is particularly important if you have others who depend on you. For example, once you have children, you can no longer spontaneously stop off for a quick drink after work without first considering if it fits in with your partner’s availability.
When it comes to your words, avoid acting impulsively. Whether you’re having a heated discussion with your partner, or your friend is sharing their recent woe, take a moment to pause and breathe before you speak.
Reflect on whether your response or reaction aligns with your desire to be considerate. If not, try to practice empathy and put yourself in your loved one’s shoes so that you can form a more appropriate and helpful response.
And remember, sometimes just listening is the best response.
10. Offer compliments.
(As long as they are genuine.)
There is something incredibly uplifting about receiving a random, unexpected compliment.
We know how good it makes us feel, yet most of the time we forget to give them out ourselves. Or we worry about coming off as over-friendly, or worse, inappropriate.
Compliments don’t have to be about physical attributes though. Words of encouragement or praise about someone’s efforts or achievements are just as validating (and might be safer territory if you tend to get your words mixed up).
The key to giving compliments is to be genuine and sincere.
So, if you think it, and they would like to hear it, say it.
Like the color of their new coat? Tell them.
Think their new haircut looks edgy? Tell them.
Love their paper on mediated quasiparticle interactions observed in ultracold mixtures? Tell them!
11. Appreciate differences.
As we talked about at the start, to be considerate is to be thoughtful of the rights and feelings of others.
And we all have the right to live our lives according to our own perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds.
It’s easy to be considerate of people with the same tastes and opinions as you, but true consideration means showing thoughtfulness even to those whose beliefs or values are different from yours.
You don’t have to agree with them, but the tips in this article should help you to consider and respect everyone’s rights and feelings.
After all, you never know the unique contribution these differing viewpoints and experiences can bring to the table.