Sometimes people approach me online or in the street (the beauty of living in a small city) and start a seemingly innocent conversation: I haven’t seen you for ages. How are you? Did you miss me?
I find the ‘did you miss me’ question perplexing. My rational mind tells me I shouldn’t take this question seriously because many people don’t think before opening their mouths and making sounds. They just say things on a whim and get really surprised if their words are taken seriously.
I disregarded such questions (and such people) for years until I realised that some people actually thought that other people might miss them. And so, they asked the question expecting I’d say ‘yes, I missed you’.
I find it really weird that someone might think that I’d sit on my hands missing them instead of reaching out and inviting the person for a coffee. Leaving this aside, I started thinking about the strange ‘did you miss me’ phenomenon.
I didn’t give much thought to the personality type, because it’s obvious that the person asking that question is somewhat self-centered, self-confident and loves attention.
I thought about the ‘miss me’ phenomenon: Why do we actually miss someone? How do we know if other people really miss us? Are we worth being missed?
Why do we miss other people?
No matter how smart, pretty, successful and rich we are, people won’t miss us just for the qualities we have, or the life we lead. People may seek our attention or expect favours from us, but they won’t miss us.
Missing is a feeling; it’s like sadness. When I miss someone, I feel sad that they aren’t around. Why? Because when they are around, I feel better about myself, my life feels brighter, my day goes better, or something else positive happens.
People don’t enjoy our company just because; they enjoy their own emotional experiences which they have when we are around. In fact, we create these emotional experiences for other people – through our personality and actions – knowingly or unknowingly.
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. - Helen Keller
Emotional experiences can be very different, for example:
Feeling like having a good laugh
Feeling at ease, relaxed and safe
Feeling energised and empowered
Feeling that we don’t need to pretend
Feeling that we can be open and sincere
Feeling intense emotions (e.g. romantic)
Feeling appreciated and understood.
It’s all about feeling. In most cases, people enjoy POSITIVE emotional experiences, unless of course they love self-inflicted pain.
Missing someone is about missing the feeling that we had when that person was around.
This explains why some people try so hard to be good to others, they try to be helpful, useful, do favours and so on. They mentor us, they share information with us, they help us in our work or with family chores. They help us financially.
Do we appreciate such people? Absolutely. Do we want to keep them in our life? Most likely. Do we miss them? No, we don’t. Because ‘missing someone’ is a feeling and we can’t miss someone simply because they have been useful to us. We only miss people who create positive emotional experiences for us.
This explains why some people who actually don’t do anything very useful for us in practical terms are loved and missed. And people who are indeed kind and helpful are never missed.
We can’t create ‘emotional hooks’ and get remembered, missed and loved unless we understand what drives and motivates the other person and what emotional experiences they actually need and like.
Cunning smart manipulators know very well how to create ‘emotional hooks’ in other people. They study their love victim, get to know it and then creates the right emotional experiences that are fit-for-purpose and tailored to the victim's personality. Some people do this unknowingly of course. They are just good at feeling what people need and creating the emotional connections naturally.
Emotional connections aren't created just in the world of romance and friendship. Emotional connections of another sort are also created at work. Work isn't just about achievements, promotions, projects, efficiencies and timelines. We deal with humans at work and humans are emotional beings - some more than others.
Emotional intelligence, more than any other factor, more than IQ or expertise, accounts for 85% to 90% of success at work... IQ is a threshold competence. You need it, but it doesn't make you a star. Emotional intelligence can. - Warren G. Bennis
So, do you miss me?
All my life I’ve been intentionally selecting people for my close circle who are self-confident and have strong personalities. Most of them, like me, are quite self-centered. My kids are self-centered, just by nature and obviously have taken after their self-centered parents.
But I get genuinely surprised every time I come across people who are so much more self-centered that I am, and most importantly who are naïve enough to think that I miss them just because of the fact of their existence.
I’m even more surprised when people who don’t treat others quite right still think that other people would miss their apparently bright – or so they think – personalities. (Do I look like you mum, sweetheart?)
No matter how bright and sparkly you think you are, you still have to create positive emotional experiences for other people to miss you. It's like with the sunshine. We understand that the sun is useful for our planet, but we don't miss the sunshine because of its usefulness. We don't miss the sun because it's pretty. We miss the sun because we feel warm and good in the sunshine.
Before you go and ask someone 'Did you miss me?' stop and ask yourself first:
What emotional experiences have I provided?
What will I be remembered for?
Did people enjoy my company, or did they need me because of my 'usefulness'?
To awaken human emotion is the highest level of art. - Isadora Duncan
So, nowadays I don’t disregard the bizarre question ‘Did you miss me’ coming from someone I haven’t seen for months and don’t care about. When asked the question, I look the person in the eye, smile nicely and ask, ‘Remind me what was there to miss?’ There's never a meaningful answer. I watch the person's reaction and enjoy every second of it.