Never Leave A Compliment Unsaid

I try to never let a compliment go unsaid.  If I ever thinksomething positive about someone or something, I share it before it vanishes.

Take the time I was placing an order with a florist.  The woman I was speaking with seemed thrilled I’d called.  And mine wasn’t some big order that would save the day—just a little arrangement for a friend’s birthday.  It turned out I was speaking with the owner.  Before I hung up, I told her she had the best phone personality.

“You just made my week,” she said.

Her week?  That a simple comment made by a total stranger had struck such a chord made me wonder what difficulties she was going through. Because most of the time, we don’t have a clue about the struggles other people are up against, and yet a social nicety, a mini-compliment out of the blue—though it must be an authentic one; it can’t be something phony, trumped up for social lubrication—has the power to touch people profoundly.

Once, I was at a store, and as the clerk was ringing up a sale, I glanced at the woman standing next to me.  I complimented her on her yellow sundress, how cheerful and summery it was.

“Thank you so much for saying that,” she said, barely holding back tears. “You don’t know how much that means to me.  I just came from a funeral, and everyone was wearing black.  People told me I was being disrespectful.  But I thought the deceased—a friend in his eighties—would appreciate something cheerful.”

I’d just reacted to the festive color of someone’s dress, and I had no idea I was giving a gift to someone who needed it so badly.  She took my comment as an affirmation—regardless of what her girlfriends had said, she wasn’t a bad person for having worn a sunny color to a funeral.  She was okay. And isn’t that what we all crave? To feel that we’re okay?

After that brief encounter, I walked away with an extra bounce in my step, and probably she did, too.    Giving a compliment releases energy and relaxes the spirit.  Besides, it’s fun.  This simple kindness adds an extra punctuation mark, a spark!, and life feels momentarily fuller.  And giving a compliment is such an easy, fluent currency available to all of us.

Jo Giese is a award-wining radio journalist, author, teacher, community activist.  Her book Never Sit If You Can Dance: Lessons from My Mother, is available now.

On the Road with Never Sit If You Can Dance

The official launch of my mother-daughter memoir Never Sit If You Can Dance: Lessons from My Motherisn’t until April 23rd.  But because of early invitations to literary festivals my joyful book is already inching its way out into the public. 

My mom was called Babe, and my first impression of being out in the world with Babe is that my mother stories are acting as an immediate catalyst, unleashing mother stories in the audience and in book buyers.  Organizers are always advising authors to make our presentations interactive, to engage the audience, not to just read from our book.  

But I don’t have to do anything especially interactive because I’ve found that after I speak people can’t wait to tell me their stories.  Although I’m still impacted by the emotional stories I’m telling—recently when I was  recording the audiobook, I couldn’t stop crying--I wasn’t expecting my stories to unleash such a flood, such a outpouring of mother stories from the audience.  


At the CALM Celebrity Authors’ Luncheon in Santa Barbara after I spoke about my mom’s dancing, one woman rushed up to tell me that her mom took up tap-dancing in her mid-eighties.  


At the Literary Guild of Orange County’s annual event I mentioned how surprised I was that one of my favorites is Lesson 13: Sometimes Life Begins Again at 95. Because Babe blossomed at 95 when she moved into a senior living community, and I wasn’t expecting that.  Later when  I was at the book table, autographing books, a woman came up to me, and looking me straight in the eye, said, “I’m ninety-five.”   This tall brunette looked healthy and happy, and I took her comment to mean that she was blossoming at 95, too.  In our culture that’s something we’re not necessarily led to believe is a possibility. 

I’m enjoying the interactions with other authors, too.  In Santa Barbara I was in the book signing ballroom, and the mother of the youngest author, a eighth-grader, gave me a compliment on my red satin blazer—a cool splurge for the book tour—and I thanked her and told her about Lesson 10: Don’t Be Drab.  I also mentioned that since authors are the entertainment, we should dress accordingly.  This mother then turned to her daughter, the author, who was wearing a plain blue and white dress, and said, “See, did you hear that?”


A friend, who knew my mother, and had just read the book, suggested I give out vintage handkerchiefs when people bought a book.  So, I ordered 108 vintage hankies on Amazon.   When I asked a book buyer if they’d like a handkerchief to go along with their book—they were fanned out on the table in a rainbow of colors--it also unleashed such stories of nostalgia for their moms and their mom’s handkerchiefs.

My next out of town gig is the Annapolis Book Festival, and I’m looking forward to the stories and the interactions with people who attend.  If you’re near Annapolis and the Key School on April 6, stop by and introduce yourself and share your stories.

Jo Giese is an award-winning radio journalist, author, teacher, and former TV reporter.









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