The other day, a friend mentioned he enjoyed the fact I thought about things. Since I like the guy, I was instantly happy to hear he got a kick out of my thoughts.
A while later, I got to thinking about what he’d said and my reaction to it. I decided he’d said exactly the right thing to make me happy. If he’d told me he thought I was smart, I would not have been so happy to hear it, because I don’t routinely take much pleasure in being smart. But instead he told me he enjoyed the fact I thought about things — and I’m usually happy to hear my friends enjoy me. But that’s a strange little distinction, isn’t it?
I suppose it’s kind of like the difference between hearing, “You’ve got a great car!”, and “Thank you for giving me a great car!”.
At best, the first statement means, “I’m happy for you because you have a great car.” That’s a good sentiment. But “You have a great car!” can also mean other things — such as, “I am impressed by your ability to afford a great car.” And, while there’s nothing horrible about that, it’s not such a remarkable sentiment as “I’m happy for you because you have a great car.”
Now, if we look at the second statement, “Thank you for giving me a great car!”, and we take it to mean the person enjoys the car we gave him, then isn’t it a lot more meaningful to us than, “I am impressed by your ability to afford a great car”?
And in a somewhat similar manner, when someone says they enjoy the fact we think about things, isn’t that more likely meaningful to us, than when someone says they are impressed by how smart they think we are?