Today I received a couple of very unexpected compliments, from surprising sources. Not surprising because they thought well of me, but surprising because they chose to say it. Both men are of the “why say it? You know it’s true!” school, so it was particularly wonderful to get positive feedback from them. (Can you tell that I hang around with a lot of Computer Scientists and Engineers??)
In actual fact, I spent the day grinning every time I remembered the words, and I remembered them so often that I suspect I was in danger of being branded smug (either that or people were beginning to wonder what I was up to).
The compliments were especially effective because they were very specific praise of things that I know I do well. That might strike you as a bit odd. Why should I need to be complimented for stuff that I know I’m good at? Yet those things that are “so obvious they hardly need mentioning” are precisely the things that don’t get mentioned.
Sometimes life can seem like a fast flowing river full of submerged logs, boulders, and the occasional ravenous crocodile. It can feel as though we are buffeted, bruised and attacked, barely managing to keep our heads above water. Compliments are like an extra life vest – they can buoy you up and help you to float over the difficult bits. They make it that much easier to keep swimming.
It can be daunting to compliment someone – it’s easy to get tangled up in fears that people will mistake your motives, or just feel too shy to make that rather personal approach. But the fascinating thing about compliments is that they are just as good to give as to receive. Knowing that you have made someone else’s day is one of the best ways to make your own.
It doesn’t take much – praising a barista’s coffee, or admiring the little pattern they have made in the froth (coffee is a very important part of my life, so I notice these things), appreciating someone’s earrings or hairstyle, or complimenting a bus driver on a smooth ride. These things are like stones thrown into a pond. The ripples spread and grow, as a small wave of kindness washes over the world, with you at its centre. How great is that??
I don’t make the time for these things as often as I should. Too often I save up my positive thoughts for Christmas cards, or other arbitrary occasions, where they risk getting swamped or even forgotten in the seasonal chaos. I’ve been inspired, today, to be more appreciative. To tell people when they make a difference to me, big or small. To write to authors whose work enriches my life, compliment co-workers, and be so very grateful to my children’s teachers, who perform small miracles on a daily basis.
Try it for yourself. Make some waves. Go forth and compliment.