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. jogiese.com