The Art of the Compliment

I can live for two months on a good compliment.  ~Mark Twain

I love a good Twain quote, so when I was googling (google-ing?) for a quip to start this entry, this was an obvious choice. I also love complimenting people. Not flattery, but good honest compliments. This morning I was walking in to work from the car and saw a man walking toward me wearing a newsboy hat, and I was struck by how nice the hat looked with the suit. So as we passed, I said, “I like that hat.” And he was genuinely surprised to hear that from a stranger, and said, “Thank you!” And I felt good because I knew that I had made him smile and feel good about himself.

One time I told a woman that I liked her pearl necklace, and she thanked me and said she’d forgotten putting it on that morning. I compliment people on their shoes, and skirts, and purses… and once even a man’s parenting style! (He was chastising his four year old son but kept a calm, steady voice and spoke rationally to the boy, sitting down so he was eye-to-eye to his son. Working in the children’s room of the library I see all kinds of parenting, and I was very impressed by this.)

Compliments are very powerful, if used correctly. It’s one thing for a close friend or family member to tell you that you’re beautiful, but we often rebuke it with the old, “you HAVE to say that, you’re my (mother/teacher/sister/boyfriend).” Just think about how much more it means when a complete stranger tells you that your aqua shirt really makes your blue eyes stand out — I can tell you from experience, that made me feel mighty awesome!

When you get dressed in the morning, even if you’re just “throwing on jeans and a t-shirt,” you probably put some thought into your appearance. You probably make sure your hair looks nice, or at least presentable, and you might choose jewelery, put on a little makeup, maybe check the mirror before you walk out the door. And when someone compliments your appearance, that’s like a validation that your time and effort was worthwhile. You look GOOD.

Of course, it would be fabulous if everyone was secure in their self-identity, and didn’t care what others thought. Maybe that’s something you’re working on for yourself. But we all know that’s not realistic. It feels good when someone compliments us, and it doesn’t happen near enough. But we can change that, at least for others.

I want to start a movement. I want people everywhere to start giving more compliments. Sincere, honest compliments just because you really feel it. Don’t give a compliment if you have to search for it, but it something comes to you, don’t hold it in either. I didn’t tell the guy this morning I liked his hat just for the sake of giving a compliment, I truly thought it was something special. And I almost didn’t say anything, but then I thought of how good he would feel so I did. Imagine how good everyone would feel every day, if only we gave each other more compliments. Will you join me?

And hey, I don’t know if anyone has told you this lately, but your ass looks fantastic in those pants! 😉

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