Make other people realize how valuable they are to you because it strengthens the bond between you and makes for greater satisfaction with life for both of you. Thus, it enhances both of your lives and thus makes the total quantity of happiness in the world just that much greater. Make it very clear to the other person how much you appreciate what they are doing for you and make sure there is a continuing balance of what you give to what they give, and a balance of what you receive and to what they receive.

That suggestion is what every reasonably socialize person is doing all the time in most of their transactions with other people. It’s automatic behavior with most people. When people speak they expect the other person to listen for a moment and then respond appropriately and a conversation becomes mutually beneficial and happier. However, if they don’t respond to each other’s subject reasonably precisely but instead go off on a tangent that may be okay too because it introduces new information. But, if the tangents are too extreme or too frequent or one person always go off on a new subject with every opportunity for interruption, it destroys the flow of conversation. Or, if the interrupter is always making a pun or some other off hand joke about everything, it also destroys conversations. I have been guilty of that all too often and I am sorry it happened even once.

People who go off on tangents are unhappy with the current situation and they make other people unhappy too. Wandering minds need a positive goal to be happy and when they don’t have one they become despondent. When people interrupt with irrelevant data they are expressing an inner discontent and in fact they are making the other people in the conversation less happy because the interruption interferes with the direction and the unstated goals of the conversation. A good conversation builds upon everything that has gone before in the session. Just because a person is smiling and laughing doesn’t mean they are happy or that they or some other person has said something funny. Good humor is based on an interesting integration of some obvious but unobserved concept into the current flow of ideas which makes it better for everyone.

So, one way of appreciating other people is to keep them on subject because that will make them happier. That may require some conscious mental effort to develop a habit of returning to the subject when someone else has sidetracked it but learning that habit is probably worth the effort. Some major politicians are really good at doing this and can be observed in TV interviews controlling the direction of flow in a friendly but strong way. It is to be emulated. Because, people whose minds wander are unhappy it is doing them a favor to create a task for them, even if they consider it an unpleasant task, if it focuses their mind.

[General Dwight Eisenhower once said, “Being shot at focuses the mind wonderfully.” but, I doubt that he was intending to make his soldiers happy by sending them into battle. Also, it has been observed that when a group of people are confronted with a clear and present danger they become very cooperative even with people they otherwise dislike. In various interviews with survivors of these kinds of things one never hears of them being unhappy with themselves but rather their anger is focused externally onto the situations and the perpetrators of the problem. Although, last week a huge pleasure ship lost its engine power and had to be towed for three days to get back to San Diego, CA. The passengers did complain of boredom and the terror of not having a toilet that would flush for the first twelve hours after the fire. Oh, the suffering! The problem for the passengers was that they had nothing constructive to do and playing cards feels stupid when they know they are involved in potentially dangerous and newsworthy event.] — That paragraph was intended as an illustration of the previous point but it is so wordy that it becomes an illustration for the type of tangent I have been discussing.

It may be easier to learn the habit of keeping other people on subject than it is to learn to keep ones own mind on subject. But, a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.

Practice forcing people to stay on subject until it is fully explored.