Have you ever noticed how disarming a compliment can be?
Perhaps there was an instance in history (that historians neglected to chronicle) where a stable leader of one country complimented a tyrannical leader of another and it warded off a war. I’m exaggerating a bit but I do believe that a compliment changes the moment in which it is given and in that singular timeframe it can be very powerful indeed.
I remember sitting in a fast-food restaurant one table away from an over-stressed mother and her somewhat challenging toddler. They were battling over a juice box which eventually spilled all over the chicken nuggets rendering them soggy and inedible (according to the little girl). The mother grabbed the food and smushed it into a little ball and the little girl wailed.
I leaned over ever so slightly and said: “I realize the timing’s not great but I just wanted to tell you that I’ve been admiring your vest.”
She gave me a tired half-smile and in those few seconds when her frustration was diverted she touched the fringe of her vest and told me it was an anniversary gift. We watched together as her daughter drank the rest of her juice box and the world quieted once again.
When I left moments later, the mother and daughter were putting together the little toy that came with the meal. I can’t predict with absolute certainty that the compliment was responsible for calming the mother’s frayed nerves but
in my heart I really feel that it had that exact affect.
It seems awfully simple to give a compliment but we don’t seem wired to give of them generously. I guess we’re so caught up in daily survival that compliments do not even appear on our radar. But they ought to for two very good reasons. A compliment does wonders not only for the person on the receiving end but for the sender as well.
To me a compliment is equally as good (if not better sometimes) coming from a stranger as opposed to a loved one. I’m ashamed to admit that I have privately questioned the validity of some loved ones’ compliments knowing that a motive could be attached. But I still LOVE them day in and day out over and over and over again!
Yesterday at the park I decided to give a compliment to anyone walking passed the bench I had plopped down on. Forty-three people received a compliment from something as simple as “Those are great looking sneakers” to “I love your sweatshirt” to “You look like you’re in phenomenal shape.”
Every single person slowed down or actually stopped to say “thank-you.”
When they passed my bench on a second or third time around they all continued to smile back at me. I heard quite a few of the same people say “Good Afternoon’ or “Beautiful Day” or “Great Day for a Walk” to another stranger passing them by.
There’s that old adage again “what goes around comes around” except this time we’re talking ‘warm fuzzies’ instead of bad karma and that makes all the difference in the world.