I aspire to be the kind of person that Mr. Rogers would be proud of.
The kind of person who gets dressed up — and shows up.
The kind of person that friends feel comfortable calling at 4am, with a genuine crisis.
The kind of person who never (ever!) cancels a commitment at the last minute via text message, without a trace of remorse.
I’m getting there.
I’ve noticed, though, that over the past couple of years, I’ve started to attract increasingly steady, sane & reliable people into my life. And (not surprisingly) this phenomenon is directly proportionate to my own ever-increasing steadiness, sanity & reliability.
Here’s how I’ve learned to attract people I can count on — including some of the language I use, to hold commitments in place.
❤ Lay down the law — with a dash of love.
It’s an unfortunate truth, but when you give people even a little bit of wiggle room — they usually take (advantage of) it. I know, because I’ve seen it. Annnd I’ve done it.
At the beginning of this year, I established a new policy for workshop registrations. It looks a little somethin’ like this:
Once you make your payment, your workshop registration is non-refundable.
If you are unable to come, you can absolutely give or sell your ticket to somebody else. If we have a waiting list for the event, I’ll do my best to help match you up with that ‘somebody’.
But, except for highly unusual circumstances (think: illness, divorce, heartbreaking catastrophe) I don’t offer straight-up refunds. Thank you for understanding.
It’s sensible, sane & humane. And, it helps me keep a rock-solid headcount for each workshop. WIN!
❤ Model the behavior you want to see.
Un-flaky people are attracted to their fellow un-flaky people. The easiest way to become … less flaky? Use resentment as a litmus test to guide you into projects & relationships that genuinely light you up.
When you commit to something you love, that’s a commitment you tend to keep.
❤ Use shame … sparingly.
Once upon a time, when I was a shamefully flaky 18 year old, my then-sister-in-law invited me over for dinner. In my spongy adolescent brain, this meant “come over, or not, it’s cool, whatever.” But to her, this meant, “buy a special organic Cornish Game Hen, lovingly roast it for hours, set out the nice china.”
When I texted (I know, I know, it’s heinous) to cancel a few hours before dinner, she was understandably upset. And she gave me a schoolin’ I will never forget. And you know what? Her shamestorm genuinely affected me. I resolved to grow up, on the spot.
❤ Trust the beginning.
Buddhists often say: “As in the beginning, so in the middle, so in the end.” Which basically means: if someone seems unreliable the first time you meet them, that’s probably how they’re going to be … for the duration of your relationship.
Of course, people do change — all the time. They change their minds. They change their jobs. They change their haircuts. But when it comes to deeply-embedded habits — chronic tardiness, disorganization, lying — people rarely change overnight. So the question becomes: how many nights are you willing to wait?
❤ Express your appreciation.
Mr. Rogers used to sign off his hand-written letters (and later, emails) with four simple words: “I’m Proud Of You.”
His friends, family & TV production staff completely adored him — and were deeply devoted to him, right through the end.
The lesson? Expressing your affection & gratitude inspires people to rise to the occasion, to stick by your side, and to bend over backwards for you.
I’m a big fan of tangible gifts (I’ve been sending out BirchBox subscriptions & Vosges chocolate, lately — people are rarely disappointed!). I’m also a staunch advocate for courageous compliments, unexpected love notes, and purposeful praise.
Try starting with: “I can always count on you to …” / “It’s so refreshing how you …” / “I really appreciate the way you …”
❤ Know what you want.
Is there anything sexier than clarity? Nope.
If you make precise declarations – “I’m looking for an assistant who knows more about WordPress than God himself, and can proofread like an English major hopped up on a gallon of green tea.” — then people have a chance to step up, and deliver.
If you’re vague & open-ended with your requests, well … that’s what you’re gonna get served.
❤ When all else fails: accept flaws & fold them into your rhythm.
Let’s say you’ve got an amazing friend who is chronically fifteen minutes late (to everything!) but incredible in every other way. You know what? You can probably handle it.
You can try giving her a deceptively-early arrive time (“Oh yes, it begins at 10:35am. Sharp.”) and then bring a nice book, just in case. She’s worth it. You’ll live.