How to Show Someone You Care With Acts of Kindness

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" by Chris Hadfield. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you have someone you deeply appreciate? How do you show someone you care about them?

Everybody has a different way of expressing their gratitude toward people they love or appreciate. In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Chris Hadfield gives the best advice for letting others know you care.

Here’s how to show someone you care with Hadfield’s advice.

Proactively Show Others You Care About Them

When we’re busy, such as when we have a large work project, it can be hard to give those we love our full attention. Hadfield claims that when you’re away from loved ones, it’s not enough to tell them you care about them—you have to show you care. We’ll go into how to show someone you care by looking at how Hadfield exhibited his love for his family.

Hadfield learned this lesson when he was away from home for long periods to complete his astronaut duties. He noticed that his time away took a toll on his family: He couldn’t be present for all of his children’s birthdays, his family often rearranged their schedules and traveled long distances to attend his launches, and his wife took on more parenting responsibilities. 

In such instances, Hadfield still found ways to show his family he cared deeply about them. When he was with his family, he prioritized time with them and honored their needs. For instance, he took his kids on trips with him so his wife could enjoy some time to herself at home. When Hadfield was away, he planned ways to surprise them with unique displays of affection. For example, when he was scheduled to launch on his son’s 16th birthday, he made a birthday sign for him and requested that the media spotlight the sign during their coverage of the launch. His son seemed to enjoy this public celebration of his birthday.

Learn Your Loved Ones’ Attachment Styles

Hadfield’s examples of showing his wife and son he cared about them emphasize the importance of knowing which displays of affection will best communicate care. Hadfield knew his wife valued alone time, so he showed care by making that possible. Hadfield also knew that the excitement of his launch might eclipse the excitement of his son’s birthday—so he made his son’s birthday part of the launch’s hype.

How can you learn the best ways to express care toward your loved ones, as Hadfield did? Psychiatrist Amir Levine and psychologist Rachel Heller argue in Attached that different people have different “attachment styles”—ways of meeting their needs for close relationships. Understanding your loved ones’ attachment style can inform how you care for them. Let’s examine Levine and Heller’s ideas on three attachment styles, how biology and upbringing influence attachment style, and how to identify your loved ones’ attachment styles

Secure attachers are comfortable with expressing and receiving intimacy. They tend to be people who 1) were born with an even temperament, and/or 2) had caregivers that were nurturing, available, and mentally healthy. Secure attachers tend to express love easily and communicate their needs openly. Therefore, you can show you care about them by asking them how you can best meet their needs—they’re likely to give you a direct answer.

Avoidant attachers tend to avoid showing and receiving intimacy because they believe intimacy reduces their independence. They tend to be people whose caregivers were often unavailable and/or unresponsive to their needs. Avoidant attachers tend to be private (for instance, they may be nervous about introducing you to their family), and they may give you mixed messages (such as being intimate one day and distant the next.) According to experts, one way you can show care for avoidant attachers is by offering them opportunities for alone time. Avoidant attachers often require alone time but feel guilty asking for it—so you can help them meet this need by offering it.

Anxious attachers desire close connections and crave frequent reassurance that you love them. They tend to be people whose caregivers were inconsistent in their availability and responsiveness. Anxious attachers tend to be affectionate, and they can feel uneasy when you prioritize other things over spending time with them. According to experts, you can show you care for anxious attachers by providing consistent affection. By doing so, you avoid replicating the circumstances of inconsistency that led them to develop an anxious attachment style. For instance, carve out daily quality time with them (even if it’s a daily phone call) instead of going long periods without contact followed by long periods of time together.

How to Show Someone You Care With Acts of Kindness

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Here's what you'll find in our full An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth summary:

  • Chris Hadfield's experience of becoming an astronaut
  • The five life lessons Hadfield learned in his role as an astronaut
  • Why you should find joy in everyday life rather than looking forward to milestones

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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