The One Phrase Even More Powerful Than "I Love You"
Valentine's Day is right around the corner—a great excuse to make someone's day.
Millions of people around the world are going to utter the same phrase that we have used for centuries:
I love you.
Je vous aime.
A few years ago, I learned that there is one phrase even more powerful than "I love you." It forever changed the way I would share love with the people I care about.
It all started at Burning Man. My fiancée Miki and I were riding our bikes around the cracked, hard sand surface known as "the playa." We found ourselves tired and needing a break from the dust, so we stopped in a quiet corner of the grounds.
Miki looked at me, focused her big brown eyes and uttered those wonderful, familiar words, "I love you."
I looked back and found myself thinking about how fun she was to be with in that moment. Without thinking about it, I said the first thing that came to mind: "I love you because you make everything an adventure."
We paused. Something felt different. It was different, because of that one little word. That word was "because."
"I love you, because..."
I realized in that moment that when we follow our statement of love with a simple description of the reasons we love someone, we force ourselves to be more thoughtful and authentic with our words.
It is "I love you" versus "I love you because you push me to be the best version of myself," or "I love you because you make me laugh harder than anyone in the world," or "I love you because you bring out my inner weirdo."
This simple act makes it easier for the recipient to feel the depth and sincerity of your feelings. It shows them that we're not just speaking from habit. It shows that we're voicing an authentic feeling, inspired by the present moment.
I know that it can feel uncomfortable, even scary, to share these kinds of vulnerable, raw feelings with someone. To that, I've got two things to say:
First, the reality of life is that a lot of the rewarding things you do will be outside your comfort zone. Embrace the discomfort and do it anyway. Second, think about the last time someone shared their appreciation for you. How did it make you feel? It's pretty hard to feel bad when someone tells you why you're awesome. Authentic compliments are always welcome. So, if you have something nice to say, don't keep it to yourself. Say it to the person who wants, needs, and deserves to hear it.
As I started to embrace the power of "I love you, because," I ran across the work of one of the pre-eminent communication experts of our time, Robert Cialdini.
Cialdini has spent his career researching how communication affects people, relationships, and trust. In his book, he mentions that "It is not our statement of love that is most deeply felt; it is our explanation of it." Meaning that while telling someone you love them makes a difference, explaining why adds deeper meaning to it.
If you care about somebody—if you want to do something special this Valentine's Day, you don't have to look to fancy gifts, flowers, or expensive dinners.
Just tell someone why you love them.
That single world will transform and deepen the way you share your appreciation. I promise the recipient will be grateful.
And I know not all of us are throwing around L-bombs with our partners just yet. Maybe you're spending Valentine's with a group of friends. This is still a great day and a great way to spread some love. Just swap "I love you, because" with "I'm grateful for you, because" and you'll have even more opportunities to share your appreciation in meaningful ways.
Let's make someone's day.