Quiz: Do You Make Other People Happy?

Do you make other people happy?

As put forth by the Second Splendid Truth:
One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy;
One of the best ways to make other people is to be happy yourself.

Everyone accepts the Second Splendid Truth, Part A; the Second Splendid Truth, Part B often isn’t as clear to people. But to focus on Part A here – how do you know if you’re making other people happy? What are some signs?

Are the following statements true for you:

  • Do people seem to feel comfortable confiding in you?
  • Do people follow your recommendations?
  • Are you a source of material comfort or security for someone else?
  • Do people whom you’ve introduced often go on to have a continuing relationship?
  • Do people seem to drift toward you? Join a conversation that you’re having, sit down next to you at a meeting?
  • Have you recently been involved in the improvement or growth of an organization, group, or process that involves many other people?
  • Are you providing opportunities for other people – job leads, blind dates, contacts in a new city?
  • Do people whom you hardly remember go out of their way to greet you warmly? Say, the friend of your old roommate, or a former co-worker?
  • Do people seem to want to connect with you — by making plans or by emailing, calling, or texting?
  • Do people seem energized by you? Do they smile and laugh in your presence?


Notice some items that are not on the list:

  • Do people remember your birthday?
  • Do people give you presents (say, for Mothers’ Day, or in recognition of an important milestone)?
  • Do people express appreciation and gratitude for your efforts?


Even if you’re making people happy, they don’t always respond by making these gestures. (Which can be quite annoying.)

A while back, I posted a quiz, Are you the person whom everyone else finds difficult? It was a lot easier to think of signs that you make people unhappy than you make people happy – perhaps because of the negativity bias.

What am I missing? I feel like I’ve overlooked some obvious indicators. What are some other good signs that you make people happy?


  • I, too, find it easier to think of signs of making people unhappy.

    I think, more often than not, people have a neutral reaction, so there may be an absence of both positive and negative signs. (The exception to this might be some extreme personalities, which cause others to have an almost immediate reaction in a strongly negative or positive direction.)

  • An Ordinary Person

    No offense, but it’s not hard to think of the ways in which popular people make others happy.  Alas, not everyone can be popular — can be, for instance, the type of person that others drift toward.

    • Are we talking popularity here? A person doesn’t have to be popular to make others happy. Popular people can be polarizing, so they often have as many people who like them as dislike them.

      • gretchenrubin

        I remember reading – I think it was in Michael Thompson’s BEST FRIENDS WORST ENEMIES: UNDERSTANDING THE SOCIAL LIVES OF CHILDREN – the observation that popularity (at least among kids) wasn’t about having a lot of friends, it was about status, i.e., a person could be very popular but not well-liked. Is the same true of adults?

        What an interesting subject. I haven’t thought about this issue, and its relationship to happiness, before.


    • gretchenrubin

      That’s an interesting distinction. The question becomes: what makes people popular? Different qualities in different circumstances, I suppose. But seems to me likely that a person who makes other people happy is likely to draw them to himself or herself. Not sure that’s the same as being “popular” however.


  • patty

    Perhaps as a corollary to the first three, if someone misses your friendship after you have been away on vacation, you make them happy when you are present. 

  • First, Gretchen, your Second Splendid Truth is spectacular.  I tossed an old notebook in my bag this week on the way to the swimming pool with my girls, and opened to the first page of my scribblings.  It read, “My purpose in life finally discovered.  It’s simple, delicious, and always available. And nothing I have to do, just to be. I am in a brightness of joy, and I am experiencing others in a brightness of joy just from being in my presence.”  

    I believe to the bottom of my toes that being in a place of happiness and sincere joy is one of the greatest gifts we can give.  I emphasize the sincere part here, because I find that people are great detectors of “real” and the more authentic we are in our joy it would seem, the greater possibility of seeing evidence of making others happy.

    I’ve found for me, it’s important to stay grounded in my purpose so as to not get thrown off by the results, which I may or may not like.  Just like you said, sometimes people don’t always respond to your happy and generous gestures, which can be painful and hard.  Sometimes people don’t know how to respond, and sometimes I think they assume that because you are in this place of happy, you couldn’t possibly need anything, including a gracious response.  

    Thank-you for the heart and sincere desire to lift others that you put into your posts.  It’s a particular treat to be taught and enlightened by a fellow female traveler.   

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so happy to hear that my work resonates with you!


    • Annie

      I agreed with you, Melanee. Being sincere and genuine, for is what I first notice about myself.  If I’m being honest about myself and happiness, everything else seems to fall into place in terms of how people react to me and that is sensed on and from both sides.  Also  if I’m not sincerely happy, how can I radiate that, thus others are not receiptive either. Also I notice that I just natually seem to be repelled by those individuals who continually seem to think that not being true to yourself and being phony and/or self serving about their intentions towards others and other people happiness.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that sincerity is easily recognized just as easily as insincerity. Thanks for the post and comments…it always a pleasure to read.

  • r s

    Uh oh, while I passed the difficult person test, I’m afraid I can’t answer many (any?)  of these with a “yes.”  So, the questions becomes, what to do?  Is this a permanent character trait or is this something that can be improved upon?  What are some concrete steps to take?    

    • Val

      Everyone wants to be noticed and connect with other people.

      Say hello.   Smile.  Small talk.    It’s hugely helpful.  love, Val

  • In my box

    How do you make someone else happy? As an introvert, I struggle so hard with this. Anytime I do anything, I feel like I’m being fake, even though I am being sincere.

    • gretchenrubin

      What an interesting comment. How is this feeling connected to being an introvert? In what way is this more difficult for introverts? I think I’m a mix of both (and a friend who is an expert in introversion told me she thought I was, too) so hard for me to have a clear sense of it.


      • Val

        Keep on, is my advice. Your efforts are probably more appreciated than you ever guessed.

        Everyone wants to be noticed. And connect.  Even if you feel uncomfortable, you’re doing a lot.  love, Val

        • In my box

          Thanks Val, Gretchen.

          My introverted-ness started when I was very young and going through some rough stuff at home. The kids at school did not respond well to it, and isolated me. I lost out on the little interactions that people need to function well. I’m not good with chit-chat, and any time I try to console or support, I feel like fake–like I’m uttering lines from a movie. I have a few friends, but I’m not really close to anyone.

          • Val

            School.    There was an old, old Oprah episode many years ago where she was talking to biracial kids about how they felt, and Mariah Carey was one of the guests.

            All the people talked, and shortly it was apparent none of them felt out of place among all their various colors of relatives.    It was at SCHOOL they felt weird.

            But nobody every questioned the role or the value of school in the lives of children, positive or negative, or why do we care about school at all, and think it’s so darned important.

            School can kiss your ass.   I think that kiss my ass thing when people are stupid.  I don’t actually say it to their face–but thinking it changes the whole dynamic.

            If you love someone–say so.  If you enjoy someone’s company, tell them.     Life is too short to do otherwise.   love Val

  • Kate

    One of the things I think indicates you make other people happy when THEY want to introduce you to their friends, colleagues, etc.  I hope so anyway because I would like to do well on this test!

  • Val

    I wish I could remember who told me this.

    But people aren’t really impressed by how impressive we are.  What sticks with them is how they feel about themselves when they’re around you.


    Make people feel like crap, that’s a story.

    Or don’t. 

    This is something worth paying attention to: How do people feel about themselves when they’re around me?     Hopefully safe.  Maybe even appreciated.  

    Everyone has a story that I don’t know.  I trust that. 

    Plus we’re stuck together in whatever situation we’re in, so might as well laugh and be nice to each other.

    There’s definitely nothing gained by treating each other badly.

    In a family, at work, at the store, in traffic, it’s still true.  Gretchen, thanks for caring about this topic.  love, Val

  • bev smith

    How do you make someone else happy? You can’t. We are not responsible for other people’s happiness and they are not responsible for ours. I wouldn’t say i go out of my way to make other people unhappy though. I have at least one friend that all those things apply to and a couple of others i have known for many years that i don’t have contact with very often but when we do come together its like we have never been apart. I also have a job where i have to keep other people happy or else they complain and then i wouldn’t be happy. Also i’m hard to get to know, life as left it scares and i tend to shy away from others until i am sure of them.

    • gretchenrubin

      This is an EXCELLENT point. And now that you say it, I should’ve known better than to frame this post in this way.

      I should have realized this, because in fact, my Seventh Splendid Truth is:

      Happy people make people happy, but

      You can’t make someone be happy, and

      No one else can make you happy.

      You can contribute to other people’s happiness, but you can’t make them be happy.


      • bev smith

        Very true Gretchen, very true

  •  This is rally a hard question and some times  I do make people happy. Thanks for the tip.

  • DiscoveredJoys

    I think it is probably doomed to failure if you deliberately try to make people happy to see you. Most people have very highly developed ‘insincerity detectors’ – which is why glad-handing politicians and gushing celebrities are rarely liked as much as as they would wish.

    I am reminded of a quotation that Gretchen posted last October:

    “The secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” — William Morris 

    I believe that if you take a genuine interest in other people they will value you and your thoughts. Who wouldn’t be happy with someone who cares?  

  • Lori

    How about encouraging other people’s plans and ideas?

    Say someone says “I want to be a song writer” and you tell them how unrealistic it is to make a living doing that, how many other song writers there already are out there, how hard it is to break into the industry ….. This is not very happy-making.  On the other hand, simply saying, “Honey you would be a TERRIFIC song writer!” is encouraging and will uplift the person and give them the freedom and support necessary to decide whether to follow their passion.

    • gretchenrubin

      Helping other people to think big is a great thing to do.


    • I agree wholeheartedly with this! However, a true friend would both encourage and provide a dose of realism. I believe it is possible to do both in a kind way that doesn’t burst someone’s bubble.

  • Peninith1

    I think the MOST important thing was observed by another person posting here–and it’s something we can rarely measure ourselves–how do other people feel about THEMSELVES when they are around you? People who make me feel a sense of possibility, or as if I am appreciated, or as if my company is a pleasure to them, who share my enthusiasm about something, who look out at the world with an attitude of love and welcoming, these people attract me and make me want to spend time with them. I don’t really ‘take the temperature’ of how others relate to me much, but I do take a hint from others who make me feel a positive vibe around them and try to give that same gift to others.

  • Years ago 16/17 turning I decided to be nice after seeing a distant relative
    spread Pain and misery through gossip and mean words.  I was the school freak. Until seeing her I didn’t realize how my snappy attitude contributed to people’s pain even though they probably deserved it for making fun of me.   

    But I didn’t want to be nice to make friends.  Though I made lots of friends.
    I also made enemies.
    Not everyone likes happy nice people.
    Some people actually hated me because I tried to be nice and
    make people smile. 
    I had some apologies from guarded people who admitted they
    were wrong about me.
    I also had some people who will never like me.   Mostly
    those who are addicted to misery, gossip, and can’t say a nice thing when
    people have good news.  I am happy and I like people. Can I make everyone happy. No. That’s okay to.

  • kathy b

    what is THe Happiness Project?  
    What a thrill too bad I did not see this episode! 
    But it makes me smile to know you did

  • Most of your criteria seems to be slanted towards extroverts who bring
    happiness to people.  They do so in a very unique way that may not show
    up for introverts.  You could also ask:

    – Do long time friends state a desire to spend a quiet afternoon
    catching up with you?  Do they set aside several hours to be in your
    company, rather than plan to “catch you” at a big party?   (Seems to me
    that’s a greater indication of bringing joy to someone’s life rather
    than attracting a hoard of hangers-on at a party.)

    I don’t have people going out of their way to greet me, but mostly because I’m rarely out and about. LOL  I DO have folks at the gym say “Hi! I’ve missed you!” when I’m gone for a week or two, so maybe that’s the same thing?

    I’m an introvert, but not reclusive.  I just don’t like big parties, so I’m NEVER the one others gravitate towards at a party.  However, I DO have several people who seek out my company one-on-one, because they – like me – prefer small, intimate visits where meaningful conversation takes place.

    I also don’t understand the point about people you’ve introduced striking up a friendship with each other.  I have many and diverse friends, and I don’t measure how I function in a relationship based on how others react to each other.  I’ve had several friends over the years that no one else could appreciate (one was widely considered a “grouchy old man/crank”) but I adored them all. 

    And finally, let us not confuse networking with creating relationships.  “providing opportunities for other people”???  Really?  While I’m all for offering tips and suggestions to friends, I’m neither a match-maker nor a career counselor, and wouldn’t expect that from any friendship.  Nor would I ever think to consider that as important in anyone else.

    I can only guess that you’re an inveterate extrovert, and have little familiarity with introverts.  To that end, let me share this:

    “INTROVERT – Definition: Contrary
    to what most people think, an introvert is not simply a person who is
    shy. In fact, being shy has little to do with being an introvert!
    Shyness has an element of apprehension, nervousness and anxiety, and
    while an introvert may also be shy, introversion itself is not shyness.
    Basically, an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people. Introverts
    are more concerned with the inner world of the mind. They enjoy
    thinking, exploring their thoughts and feelings. They often avoid social
    situations because being around people drains their energy. This is
    true even if they have good social skills. After being with people for
    any length of time, such as at a party, they need time alone to
    “recharge.” When introverts want to be alone, it is not,
    by itself, a sign of depression. It means that they either need to
    regain their energy from being around people or that they simply want
    the time to be with their own thoughts. Being with people, even people
    they like and are comfortable with, can prevent them from their desire
    to be quietly introspective.Being introspective, though, does not
    mean that an introvert never has conversations. However, those
    conversations are generally about ideas and concepts, not about what
    they consider the trivial matters of social small talk. Introverts make up about 60% of the gifted population but only about 25-40% of the general population.” From the website: http://giftedkids.about.com/od/glossary/g/introvert.htmThank you!Mary G.

    • gretchenrubin

      This is interesting. I know many decided introverts who would answer “yes” to these questions. But people are very different, and show their personalities in different ways. To me, the quality of introversion wouldn’t seem to be particularly at play here.my friend Susan Cain is publishing a fascinating book QUIET which is about “the power of introverts” so I’m going to ask her! (Also, when I was talking about groups, I didn’t necessarily mean large parties, but groups at family gatherings, people at work, etc.)


    • gretchenrubin

      Also, I think I confused two things in this post. One question is – does your presence make people happy? That’s what you’re talking about in your comment. I meant that, but also threw in the idea of – do your actions create conditions that tend to increase people’s happiness? Which, as you point out, is quite different. Actions like helping people to make new friends, or to make meaningful connections, is in this latter category.

      For instance, I have a friend who is quite exceptional. She herself is a joy to be around, and she has a remarkable gift for helping people make new friends and find jobs! She’s an example of someone who is active in both senses – but they are distinct. Now, would I say she’s an introvert or an extrovert? I think she’s an introvert.

      I’m realizing that this post was not well-reasoned! Clarity, always clarity.


      • Freyjah

        Your clarifications are useful, but I understood and welcomed the intent of the post. Maybe one way to frame it would be something like “do you project positive energy to other people?”

  • It’s really upsetting when others don’t appreciate your effort but then in reality the thing that upsets us is not them. It’s the failed expectation to receive something in return that upsets us.

  • This post really stuck with me-after reading it, I have thought it about it several times while trying to fall asleep, make my breakfast, and writing a letter to a friend.  It is a good challenge to give ourselves-do I help other people be happy?  Can I use my presence and be the kind of person who facilitates happiness?  I have always thought my mom was a person who did this well, and often because she was willing to laugh at herself freely, and she is so good at asking others lots of questions about their lives.  She has inspired me as I try to emulate some of that happiness=bringing.

  • Restoringharmony

    I think questions that might be useful are: Do you get the feeling people feel welcome in your house? Do they want to hang out at your place? When they show up unexpected, what kind of reception do they get? Everyone jokes that they can’t step through my door without me offering them tea and food. It’s true, but that’s how I make people feel welcome. I like people dropping in and it makes them realize it’s okay. I also walk them to the door, and often to their car, when they leave, even when I’m having a gathering.

  • love letters

    I used to think being thin would make people like me more. But now that I am a healthier weight and I am happy with who I am, I can spread that love out to other people in my life and make them feel good about themselves. Now I feel like people like me more than ever and look up to me. 

    Keep the lovely posts coming xx

  • To make others happy you must be happy yourself.  Happiness is not in material things, its a state of the mind. Positive attitude can make one happy. If the person laughs at your jokes, calls often you know they are happy communicating with you.

  • CoriC

    In thinking about it – I have a bit of a dual personality. Many of my friends and colleagues would say I am positive, funny, interesting, thoughtful and on that basis, they are happy when they are around me. I feed off that energy and become more positive, funny, interesting and thoughtful. But, I sometimes wonder if I’m the same ‘fun’ person within my own family. It is within your family that your positivity and fun-ness will be tested. They are the people you care most about; worry most about and because I care and worry, or maybe purely down to daily proximity and intensity of family relationships – this can make me unhappy if things are not going to plan, when something happens one of my family, etc.  Of course family also has much more understanding, but I’d love to be as ‘fun’ with my family as with my friends…..