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People Will Remember How You Make Them Feel

People will certainly remember how you make them feel. But are you authentic or manipulative when you make them feel good?

Photo credit: Wake Forest University/Ken Bennett

“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

This is such a beautiful and powerful quote that certainly resonates with me. I wasn’t able to fully appreciate this quote when I first heard it a few years ago but that changed the moment I became a certified emotional intelligence practitioner. As a certified emotional intelligence practitioner, I am able to fully value how a person’s emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant, can help make or break relationships and I also often share this practical knowledge in my emotional intelligence programmes and workshops.

This quote came to mind when a business associate shared with me her new career and her new boss during a long overdue catch up meeting.

The new boss

She started by sharing, “As a leader, he’s a real people person and manages people well. He is like a chameleon- he changes according to who he deals with. He knows what to say to make people feel good. What he says and his stories are tailored specifically to the person. He is very smooth in dealing with people as he says different things to them in order to achieve his objectives.”

I said in a curious tone, “It must be a great experience working with this new boss.”

She sighed and said, “He’s fake! How do I respect a boss who’s fake?!”

I then asked, “What makes you feel he’s fake?”

She went on and explained, “I know he’s fake based on what he does and says! They are usually inconsistent. It creates confusion for all of us. He just wants to be Mr. Popular and Mr. Nice Guy by doing and saying the ‘right’ things to people. He manipulates his way to achieving whatever he wants!”

A manipulative leader?

Is the new boss a manipulative leader? He sure knows how to make people feel good and when he succeeds at that, people will not only remember him but will also treat him well in return. This could be one of his key success factors as a leader.

Maya Angelou’s quote still resonates deeply with me. The only difference here is the underlying objective of making people feel good so that they remember you.

I understand why she considers her new boss fake and manipulative- he is inconsistent in his words and actions when dealing with different people. Although his intention is to make people feel good, he does this with an ulterior motive.

She’s right but is her new boss wrong? Could this be her new boss’s way to succeed and/or survive in the company?

Be authentic

In order to avoid the ‘manipulative leader’ label, the new boss will need to be authentic, which means consistently displaying his core values and belief systems in his thoughts, actions and words.

Authenticity is also fundamental in forging trust and respect.

In the case of my business associate, she clearly doesn’t trust or respect her new boss as he’s inauthentic. He may be managing people well by making them feel good but it’s his inconsistent ways that have resulted in this impression on the part of my business associate.

I curiously asked, “How do the rest feel about this boss?”

Without hesitation she replied, “They often make fun of his fake ways. They also pretend when dealing with him in order to survive in the company.”

From her explanation, it seems that the company’s culture is such where people are fake in their dealings with each other so that they can remain relevant. This must mean that there’s low trust in the company. The company may still be profitable but how different might the performance and results be if the culture became more conducive with higher level of trust? Also, how long can the company remain profitable if the existing culture continues?


I’m still a big proponent of Maya Angelou’s quote. People will certainly remember how you make them feel. But are you authentic or manipulative when you make them feel good? What’s the underlying objective of making people feel good so that they remember you?

If you do not want to be labelled as ‘fake’ and ‘manipulative’, make sure what you’re doing comes from a good place and out of sincerity. Do or say it because the person rightfully deserves it, not because you want to gain something from the person.


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