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10 Ways to Love the People in Your Life

“At the end of life, our questions are very simple: Did I live fully? Did I love well?” ~Jack Kornfield

We all grow up with some healthy stories about love and some unhealthy ones. I learned some beautiful, life-giving ideas about love, ideas like these:

  • Loving people means believing in their potential.
  • Love means treating people with kindness and gentleness.
  • Loving the people in your life means celebrating their successes and cheering them on.

But I also grew up with some stories about love that I came to see weren’t so helpful. Those ideas about love bred problems in my relationships.

One of those stories was: Loving someone means always being available to them. (Turns out, it’s not true, and living as if it is breeds resentment.)

Another was: Loving someone means always having space for what they want to talk to you about. (Turns out, not true either!)

Another myth about love: If you love someone, you do what they are asking you to do, out of love, even if it feels difficult. (I can tell you, that doesn’t work so well.)

I’ve developed my own guidelines for loving the people in my life, guidelines that express how I want to relate to the people around me.

These are some of my guidelines for loving:

1. Tell them about their brilliance. They likely can’t see it and they don’t know its immensity, but you can see it, and you can illuminate it for them.

2. Be authentic, and give others the gift of the real you and a real relationship. Ask your real questions. Share your real beliefs. Go for your real dreams. Tell your truth.

3. Don’t confuse “authenticity” with sharing every complaint, resentment, or petty reaction in the name of “being yourself.” Meditate, write, or do yoga to work through anxiety, resentment, and stress on your own so you don’t hand off those negative moods to everyone around you. Sure, share sadness, honest dilemmas, and fears, but be mindful: don’t pollute.

4. Listen, listen, listen. Don’t listen to determine if you agree or disagree. Listen to get to know what is true for the person in front of you. Get to know an inner landscape that is different from your own, and enjoy the journey. Remember that if, in any conversation, nothing piqued your curiosity and nothing surprised you, you weren’t really listening.

5. Don’t waste your time or energy thinking about how they need to be different.  Really. Chuck that whole thing. Their habits are their habits. Their personalities are their personalities. Let them be, and work on what you want to change about you—not what you think would be good to change about them.

6. Remember that you don’t have to understand their choices to respect or accept them.

7. Don’t conflate accepting with being a doormat or betraying yourself. Let them be who they are, entirely. Then, you decide what you need, in light of who they are. Do you need to make a direct request that they change their behavior in some way? Do you need to take care of yourself better? Do you need to set a boundary or to change the relationship? Take care of yourself well, without holding anyone else in contempt.

8. Give of yourself, but never sacrifice or compromise yourself. Stop if resentment is building and retool. Don’t do the martyr thing. It helps no one and nothing.

9. Remember that everyone you encounter was created by divine intelligence and has an important role to play in the universe. Treat them as such.

10. If you want to keep growing emotionally and spiritually for the rest of your life, accept this as your mantra and try to live as if it were true: Everything that I experience from another human being is either love, or a call for love.

What are your guidelines for loving the people in your life?

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt.

Avatar of Tara Sophia Mohr

About Tara Sophia Mohr

Tara Sophia Mohr is a writer, coach, and personal growth teacher. She’s the creator of the global Playing Big leadership program for women, the author of The Real Life poems, and is a regular writer for the Huffington Post. Visit www.taramohr.com for more.

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  • http://www.adesignsovast.com Lindsey

    I really like this.  In the last few years I’ve been trying to understand – and, in truth, dismantle – some of the “truths” I had internalized about what love is.  I don’t know that my own rules are as articulate as yours, and I know I fall short of them every single day.  But for me the essential thing is to meet the other person where they are.  None of us need fixing.  Some of my family and friends think I’m cynical about how people won’t change, but I simply think we need to work with the patterns and bumps that those we love best have, rather than trying to change and smooth them.  I strive to honor those I love best for who they are, and to, as you say, help them see their own glittering.  It’s not easy, because it requires me to shut off my own voice of judgment, which is hard for most of us.  But it’s so worth it.  Thank you for this wisdom.  xox

  • Swirly

    Absolutely wonderful. Thank you

  • http://princessandthepeace.blogspot.com/ Princess and the Peace

    So beautifully said. Thank you!

  • Lv2terp

    This article is fabulous!!! I have struggled to change habits so as to reflect and live your practices. Thank you for this, I plan to read this several times! :)

  • http://twitter.com/AlannahRose Alannah Rose

    Wow, beautifully said, Lindsey.  I totally agree with what you said.

    It’s so rare that people accept others “as they are” and I know this from experience.  What a gift it would be for everyone to have someone like you in their lives!

  • http://twitter.com/AlannahRose Alannah Rose

    Loved this article, and each one of these guidelines is something I have taken to heart.  Thank you, Tara!

  • Philosophical Bear

    Beautifully written thank you so much for echoing all that I believe so eloquently – fabulous! xxxx

  • http://zeroto60andbeyond.com Barbara Hammond

    Amazing list… #5 had a neon light around it for me today.  Thank you for great insights.
    b

  • Anonymous

    This is a great post, Tara! I’m definitely sharing. 

    @HeatherEColeman:twitter 

  • Melva Curry

    Just the words I needed at this very exact precise moment.  I was trying to find the words to tell a friend how much I appreciate his loving care for me over the years – when I’ve been less than loveable. He never tried to change me or guide me – he just listened and was there – with an occasional suggestion that I might be overreacting and need to “just be.”  Thank you for encapsulating it for me.
    I realize now how much he has loved me. 

  • http://big-zen.blogspot.com/ Big Zen

    Excellent post Tara. Number 4, ‘Don’t listen to determine if you agree or disagree. Listen to get to know what is true for the person in front of you.’ I think is the best bit of advice you could give anyone for forming meaningful relationships and connecting with people. :)

  • Ed

    A conscious and livable list, and should be an everyday practice. 
    Thanks

  • http://www.facebook.com/marymarjorie Mary Marjorie Weber Marr

    I would like to engrave this on a rock for a few of my friends: 5. Don’t waste your time or energy thinking about how they need to be different.  Really. Chuck that whole thing. Their habits are their habits. Their personalities are their personalities. Let them be, and work on what you want to change about you—not what you think would be good to change about them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marymarjorie Mary Marjorie Weber Marr

    I would like to engrave this on a rock for a few of my friends: 5. Don’t waste your time or energy thinking about how they need to be different.  Really. Chuck that whole thing. Their habits are their habits. Their personalities are their personalities. Let them be, and work on what you want to change about you—not what you think would be good to change about them.

  • Rebecacristina

    I was waiting for an article about love from tinnybbudha. Finally, here it is! Thanks for the guidelines. Who knows I may find love after all?

  • http://www.facebook.com/JustinCambria Justin Cambria

    A joyous and true little list. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Anonymous

    Great list, especially #6.
    There was this major moment in my relationship with my partner where he told me about some jealousy that he felt, and I became angry at him and told him that it was not logical. He said, “I know it’s not logical or fair, but it’s how I feel.” The honesty of that and the realization that I had to accept his feelings even if I disagreed was like a lightening bolt of realization. It allowed me not only to be emotionally available to him, but to be honest with myself.

  • http://vhanna26.typepad.com Vera

    #3 is really important. I knew someone who would say mean things under the guise of “I’m just being honest” when she was actually just hurting others feelings.  Be honest with your motives if you do need to say something unpleasant.

  • http://uzma7.wordpress.com Uzma

    Love the last point, we’re here to experience love or give it. Often we forget calls to love and think them to be something else. Well put. Thank u for the reminder. God bless

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  • http://www.wiseatwork.net Susie @ WiseAtWork

    Hi Tara. What a beautiful statement at the end of your post: “Everything that I experience from another human being is either love, or a call for love.”

    Thank you for that reminder of how the essence of love is a common thread for all.

    Warmly.

  • Martha

    I trully l♥v♥ this! words of wisdom!

  • http://www.facebook.com/EthicNick Nick Bryant

    Hi Tara, thank you for your heartfelt article.

    My guidelines.It’s not necassary to know the meaning of love to love, you just have to feel it.Loving is something special you do for someone, it’s a verb.Because there is really only one type of love in a releationship, unconditional love, love without need or expectation.All you really need to know, and all they really need to know, is that you love them.
    Because the whys can wait, because you will both find out the whys with time, because the whys will increase with time.When you realy love someone, unconditionaly love someone, love without need or expectation, you need patience.Patience is worth everything, becaue sometimes you just have to ‘step backwards over the edge’ and leave the rest to your karma.Buddha teaches us that when you change your self for the better, or the more you change your self for the better, you feel the same but there’s more of you to care for and share with the person you love.Which means you can change your karma and improve your relationship with the person you love by changing your self.

  • Fionnmccueil

    Ah, you lost me at those three words in number nine. Why can’t we accept that everyone was created… and has a role to play in the universe? But I have the rest of it down pat, so to speak…

    I’ve always lived all of these points but for that one part of number nine. But good try with your list! You just need an editor you respect to help you cut to the quick. Religion is less important for some than living as a decent human being, and I wish more atheists could get credit for being decent all on their own, sans all the judgement.

    Best regards,

    - Patrick

  • Joanne

    Thank you so much for this piece.  I really needed to read it today as I work through some issues with a person in my life.  Your ideas are so enriching.  Thanks again.

  • amanda

    Great little advice article! I personally strive for all of this when I meet new people especially. I just graduated high school and sadly no one I met acted anything like this. Some of my best friends would put me down and so I let them go but they made me out to look like the bad guy. This article is wonderful because if someone doesn’t show some type of love towards you (such as cheering on your goals or enlightening your confidence) then you must separate yourself from them. 

  • Jgrandash

    Thank you for the advice…

  • http://thebooksthatchangedmylife.com Marc Van Der Linden

    Absolutely wonderful post! 

    Spread the word in the world. The world would be different if everybody would apply it.

    Thanks you for  sharing  this!

  • Vspatterson

    Just what i needed to hear Thank you now will try to put it in practice

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  • Simply Healing

    I needed this today!

  • Simply Healing

    I needed this today!

  • Sasalool

    I have to say I love this article

    I love it, I absolutely love it,
    actully what’s written from number 1 to 6, are things that I have just learnt recently and from experience too. And the facts you wrote in number 7 and 8 just speak to me!!!
    I absolutely needed to read this

    thank you for your wonderful inspiration

  • PJ Swanwick

    This is such important advice, Tara, especially in our society which encourages self-absorption. Thank you for sharing.

  • Lauralpotts

    Wow! Awesome post. I’m even saving it for later!

  • Box of Kindness

    Great article. I think that it is important to show the people you love in your life that you love them. Random acts of kindness and considerate gifts are also great ways to show your appreciation for them. 

  • http://twitter.com/zec Zec

    The trouble is…when you really fall in love with the person and you are loving her madly and fully…then you don’t think about boundaries and half-loves

  • Ingrid from Cohabitaire.com

    This is brilliant – thanks for sharing the love and helping us all to love without conditions. Perfect start to the week.
    Ingrid
    X

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  • Xris

    Really helpful article. It confirms my existing beliefs, confronts the fears lurking and collects the courage that had gone astray. 

    Thanks, X

  • Nicoleadube

    I loved this article! Thanks for sharing!

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  • Anonymous

    nice thanks for the tips, also read 21ways to love your wife http://loveswaggs.blogspot.com/2011/08/21-ways-to-love-your-wife.html    and 21 ways to love your husband

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  • Terressa ebanks

    This is nice

  • Rynours

    This is some of the best advise I’ve read so far. I love how you started it off with the myths and misconceptions involving what it is to love someone. It’s true, I used to believe in those things and found out, like so many others have found out, they only cause misery for myself and the people around me.

  • Shia

    What happens when there are just to many ppl in your life? Family members, Co workers etc? I feel overwhelmed and can’t balance each and every relationship.

  • Lyndsay

    I found this page searching Google to jog my memory on the word, ‘philanthopy’ so I searched: ‘Love of people’. I recalled the word before clicking a result and now I sit back down (a few hours later) and casually click one of the results and read your thoughts and it was precisely the information I needed. Thank you for your words and for being part of a wonderful synchronous moment for me.

  • ugyen galtsho

    yes, i like your excellent advice, since i was having tough time to love some one but now i will apply your above philosophy to generate love towards other.

  • Annie

    Lately I’ve been struggling to find the balance between taking care of myself and taking care of others. Obviously there will be times where that balance may change, and I may have to sacrifice a bit more (ex. having children, ill parent, etc.), but I know that in a healthy relationship I will be repaid eventually.

    I also believe I shouldn’t have to think about ‘repaying’ people or people ‘repaying’ me. In the end, it should all balance itself out.

  • Jenani

    Wow! Loved every word of your own guidelines of loving the people in your life. Your guidelines show that in order to love others you must love and feel centered with who you
    are and be confident in that.
    I think I entered the birth canal trying to please…. I can totally relate to all the things you
    mentioned that “don’t work” when you’re trying to show love to others.
    Thank you so much for sharing. You have a special gift with words.
    J

  • MKD

    I have sent this to my co-workers and my family. I also posted it online. So wise and so astute. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  • Tiger Lily

    I love this article and came across it when looking for inspiration for how to deal with someone who is in my life (and that probably won’t change), but whom I don’t particularly like. This is a friend of someone close to me. I can tell my sensitivities are triggered when I’m around this person, and it makes me want to blame them and be angry at them. The best is not brought out in me in these situations. #5, 6, 7, 9, and 10 are brilliant for my situation with this person, but I’m worried about being able to apply some of the other important concepts if I continue to feel a strong sense of “I do not want to spend time with this person”. Any advice on how to apply these lessons? This person is causing me no harm other than serious irritation, but I do sense the triggers are mine to deal with. We can’t just sweep all negative people out of our lives, can we? Seems to me the best and healthiest approach is to learn to be a better person because of those sorts of challenges. Perhaps I have some funky personal emotions and resentment to work through before I’m able to authentically apply these lessons in this situation. Any advice would be great.

  • Aabia Liz

    What an amazing list. Anyone following your suggestions would have the recipe for a fulfilling life. This post is definitely one to read again and again.
    Take care.

  • doclovey

    Thank you, Tara Sophia Mohr. I really learned something new from your article. Be always happy !

  • Nic of Light

    check out the song ‘ I love you all ‘ for ways to love.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ExYQcCZ3AQ

  • Eloise

    I want to get number nine tattooed on my arm. This article really helped me, thank you.

  • suji

    number five is the hardest. HOW do I do that!?

  • Preethi Shukla

    thank you so much for the above article…..we all lose ourselves somewhere on the pretext of love….neednt be that way. we can love or like people without changing ourselves , bending backwards and more importantly without changing the other person; love is an emotion, not dependence. Am still learning…but a little help from people like who take time to write and share makes it easier..Thank you.