Be Generous With Compliments

The other day, I was walking through Publix and I had put on a skirt and a little bit of an effort into my appearance. One of the workers walked by and simply said, “hey I really like your skirt.”

And you know what? It made my day.

So later that afternoon, I saw a post from a company celebrating an acquaintance of mine. This person and I are friendly, we’ve worked together in the past and had maybe half a dozen interactions, but we don’t communicate regularly. But I was feeling frisky, so I commented on the post congratulating him. Likewise, later that day, an old colleague from college posted a picture of herself looking really good on Instagram, and I took the onus to comment and tell her she looked great and I hope she’s doing well.

Now, I can’t speak to their reactions, but sometimes it feels really good just to put out good vibes doesn’t it?

Compliments make us feel good. I mean, when someone compliments you, don’t you feel good? Does it make you feel validated or seen? If you worked really hard on a project or posted something you were especially proud of and it’s met with good feedback, doesn’t that excite you? I know it makes me happy. Especially when it comes from someone who isn’t always a part of my support system. When an outsider throws me a compliment, I know it means something, because they didn’t have to do that.

I think we should be much more generous with our compliments. And no, not like a creepy old man telling every girl he knows that she’s beautiful in an attempt to seduce her. But in the casual, “hey I like your skirt” or “great job on your achievement” or “your smile lights up this room” kind of compliments.

Sometimes I worry that we get so preoccupied with saying the right things and acting in a socially correct manner that we forget how to have moments of genuine human goodness. We don’t want to be too friendly and creep people out. Or be overly nice and people misinterpret it for flirting. Or giving a compliment to a stranger and someone thinking we’re weird.

Well, I think that’s crazy.

I think goodness should be spread. Spread abundantly. I think compliments should be given freely and with genuine excitement. And in a world that jumps to the negative and constantly encourages putting others down, being kind and looking for the positive can be a truly radical act. And I’m ready to radicalize.

A few years ago, I was in the middle of rehearsals for a summer show hanging out with the cast one night. It had been a long week, and it seemed we were all finding different things to complain about. We were tired, we were grumpy, morale was low. That’s when I suggested we do a compliment circle. That we would all go around the room and say good things about each other. I had done these before in school or youth group, but it was crazy to me that some people had never heard of such a thing. For the next hour or two, we just sat around and complemented each other. And the mood of the night and the week totally changed. We were happy again. We all felt seen. We all felt this overwhelming sense of validation and pride. It was a beautiful moment.

When was the last time you gave someone a compliment? Someone random — an old friend on Facebook, a new coworker, or even a stranger at the grocery store. How about someone you’re close to — your partner, your best friend, or your family. When was the last time you chose to spread a little sunshine within a world of clouds and grey?

I would challenge you to do it more. The next time you see someone you admire, someone you look up to, or someone who you think has been killing it at life lately, I dare you to tell them. I dare you to spread that positivity and shower everyone in your life, the important people and the supporting characters, with every good thing.

Be generous with your compliments. You never know how much the other person needs to hear it. I can’t begin to tell you how a few one-off comments from people that probably don’t remember them are words that have stuck with me for years. You have the power to make someone’s day, week, or month. And in these weird, confusing times, that power is special and important. So I challenge you to use your words for good and start complimenting people more often.

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again: your words are currency. How are you going to spend yours to make life a little better for yourself and all the people around you?


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