People Will Never Forget How You Made Them Feel

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

The passing of Maya Angelou has unearthed many of her greatest poems and expressions and has allowed us to treasure her words again.  I have not read all of them, but I will be surprised if I find ones that resonates more with me than the above quotation.  Two days ago, I wrote about buckets, and our filing and emptying them, and this quotation by Ms. Angelou seems to marry perfectly with that theme.

Words, as much as I enjoy them, are almost as ethereal as the air into which they meld once we start speaking.  They can be powerful motivators, and they can crush spirits.  Maturity and experience have taught me that words have the power to uplift and to denigrate: the old expression, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” just is not true. Words form and change boarders, topple governments, create movements, and alter lives, some for the better, some for the worst.  Most of us have favorite words from poems, from literature, from favorite television shows, and from family members and lovers.  We recite the words, enjoying their sounds and the music that they make in our lives.  Yes, words, as ethereal as they can be, can be powerful, transforming, and, even, memorable.

Actions, as much as I enjoy partaking in them, can become a part of a kind of muscle memory when done frequently or be lost if done infrequently.  As the Red Sox honor the 2004 World Series Team, dozens of exhilarating actions from that season play in my mind—spectacular catches, momentous hits, precise pitches—and I remember them with joy.  I also remember mine own actions fondly: running the marathon to raise funds for notable charities, cycling across country to raise funds and awareness for protective nets, teaching a favorite poem or Shakespeare play, diving into the ocean in January, singing in the choir, walking down the aisle with my bride, holding my child in my arms.  These are actions that play in my mind on a continual loop and evoke a smile.  These won’t soon, if ever, be forgotten.

When interacting with people, however, as Maya Angelou opines, how you make someone feel is the most memorable, unforgettable act: not our words, not our actions, but our impact best remains.  We may have used words and actions for that impact, and, as we know, memory attaches itself to strong emotions, so how we have left a person is what will be best remembered. The words fade, the actions disappear, but the feelings remain and indelibly mark a person’s heart.  Choose carefully, choose wisely, your words and your actions, because they will determine how people will feel about you.  And that feeling will shape your relationships.  



2 responses to “People Will Never Forget How You Made Them Feel

  1. What a wonderful quote from Miss Angelou. I try to embrace this mantra every day with my kids. Another quote by Peggy O’Mara sums it up “Be Careful how you speak to your children, one day it will become their inner voice.” Words are very powerful. I am not perfect. Some days I am a better mom than others, but at the end of the day, I go back to how did I make them feel? Do they know they are loved? Do they feel secure and cared for? I can answer yes. Now outside the family circle…now here the world has work to do. I cherish Maya Angelou’s words as well. We can all benefit from paying attention to how we make others feel. Each and every person we come in contact with, is an opportunity.

    • 30 May 2014

      Dear Friends,

      I love rereading Maya Angelou’s works this week, and I know that you are as well: my wife picked up Caged Bird, as did her Aunt Rosy. I am dabbling in the poetry and was reintroduced to this great one.

      I’m writing about her words and hope you have occasion to read my blog:



      When Great Trees Fall

      When great trees fall,
      rocks on distant hills shudder,
      lions hunker down
      in tall grasses,
      and even elephants
      lumber after safety.

      When great trees fall
      in forests,
      small things recoil into silence,
      their senses
      eroded beyond fear.

      When great souls die,
      the air around us becomes
      light, rare, sterile.
      We breathe, briefly.
      Our eyes, briefly,
      see with
      a hurtful clarity.
      Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
      gnaws on kind words
      promised walks
      never taken.

      Great souls die and
      our reality, bound to
      them, takes leave of us.
      Our souls,
      dependent upon their
      now shrink, wizened.
      Our minds, formed
      and informed by their
      fall away.
      We are not so much maddened
      as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
      of dark, cold

      And when great souls die,
      after a period peace blooms,
      slowly and always
      irregularly. Spaces fill
      with a kind of
      soothing electric vibration.
      Our senses, restored, never
      to be the same, whisper to us.
      They existed. They existed.
      We can be. Be and be
      better. For they existed.

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