How many things can you think of that are free, make people feel better, and empower the giver? I can only come up with a few, and they all involve saying something nice.
I’m not suggesting you lie, but if you pay attention, there is almost always something you can find to say that is heartfelt and positive.
Who doesn’t like hearing praise? Whether it is about someone’s style, intellect, taste, talent, wit, car color, organizational skills, sense of humor, creativity, hobby, or anything else they do, you can almost always say something that will make someone’s day and boost their self-esteem.
So, why aren’t we all complimenting each other 24/7? For some strange reason, there are people who seem to think compliments take something away from the giver. Others feel self-conscious. Saying something kind empowers both the giver and receiver; and, with practice, it becomes second nature. In addition, every time you point out something positive you will get an extra dose of joy from the delighted reaction on someone’s face.
I’m not suggesting you lard on the compliments. They have to be heartfelt, honest things you genuinely appreciate. If you’re seeing your new friend’s place for the first time and it’s painted in your least favorite color, comment on how bright and cheerful it is, or the creative use of space. There is always something positive you can genuinely say.
Just imagine what the world would be like if every time someone thought something loving, or emotionally generous, they said it. Wouldn’t you be happier if people noticed and commented on your strengths and talents?
Never underestimate the power of a kind word. I remember, a few years ago, I was in the supermarket. There was a middle-aged woman trying to decide which product to buy, and she was all decked out. I noticed, hesitated saying something complimentary because I thought she might think I was weird making a personal comment, and went ahead anyway. I said, “I have to tell you, you look so lovely.” She suddenly got a little teary and said she was having a very bad day and it meant a lot to her to hear that.
Most of us want to make a difference in the world. You can do that every day, by just paying attention, noticing all the little things that make life better, and commenting on them.
Have you ever thought something positive but kept it to yourself? I know when I keep my kind words inside I feel a little regret because I missed an chance to connect.
One caveat: don’t overdo it with the same people or they may think you are being manipulative or want something from them.
Remember Aesop’s fable of the Fox and the Crow? The crow is perched on a tree branch and the fox notices a big piece of cheese in his beak. The fox starts complimenting the crow on his shiny black coat, his regal bearing, and begins to wonder aloud what melodious tones could come from such a majestic throat. After a few minutes, the crow opens his mouth and lets the cheese fall out. The moral: Beware of flatterers. Excessive commentary, no matter how kind or heartfelt, may be seen as suspicious.
When we take the risk to connect with others it renews our optimism in people, life, and ourselves.
Don’t be stingy with your supportive words. Take the time to notice the effort people make. Whether it’s the person bagging your groceries so nothing gets crushed, the soloist at your church choir, or your child calling just to have some contact. Thank them all, point out their kindness, attributes, or thoughtfulness. It will soothe their soul and yours.
In this day and age, when things can be so impersonal, risk making that positive comment. So what if someone thinks your elevator doesn’t go to the top floor. They’re wrong. A kind word counts.
It takes guts to be open. Why be a scaredy cat who keeps all good thoughts inside when you can share them? I encourage you to try it for one day and watch people’s reactions.
Practice saying all those wonderful things you have kept inside and watch the world change, one word at a time.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang