Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Power of a Compliment

“Complimentary” by Leah Harper under the High Line in NYC, Oct 2014, which dispensed compliments! From DNAinfo.

I recently had to go to a meeting at my son’s school to meet with his teachers about his academic progress, always an anxiety-producing event. I generally know what they are going to say but that doesn’t mean the critiques are fun to listen to. The meeting went as expected and as I was putting on my coat to leave and thanking the teachers for their time and telling them that it was nice to see them, one of the teachers said to me, “It’s nice to see you too. You are always so beautifully put together, in a simple and elegant way.”

I could feel my eyes widen. “Wow! What a compliment! Thank you! You just made my whole week!”

It wasn’t an exaggeration. I had been having a tough week for a number of reasons, but this lady’s unexpected and generous comment to me was a terrific reminder of the power of words, and the power of a compliment in particular.

In case you were wondering, I was wearing these things along with jeans and black boots.

Old Navy zip cardigan, $10 green velveteen street scarf.

The “Hayley” bag by MZ Wallace in Draper Tweed.

I admit I am kind of a fanatic about giving compliments, to the point where I often wonder later (as I’m cringing), if people think I’m fake or too Pollyanna when passing them out. I am not even remotely Pollyanna. I just think that the world is so hard, it can be such a tough, depressing place, that I really love to say to a lady, “That color looks so good on you.” Or, “Oh my God, you look like a Vogue model.” I even said to a woman I don’t know at my daughter’s school, “You have the best style!” I hope she doesn’t think I’m crazy.

It was weird, but wonderful, being on the receiving end of the kind of compliment I am so used to giving out. It really did brighten not only my day but my entire week and maybe even beyond. I can’t remember the last time I got a compliment like that from someone, face to face!

I read somewhere that you should try to give three compliments a day (or maybe I made this up, I can’t remember where I would have read it!). I don’t always make it to three but I do strive to give at least one compliment a day, usually to either a complete stranger or someone I don’t know very well. I should probably try harder to give compliments to the people I see on a daily basis!

“Complimentary” included this gem, all taken from a poll conducted on Craigslist! Photo by Leah Harper.

I do find it a bit harder to compliment men. They seem much more ready to reject one, always in a joking way of course, but it still seems as though a compliment makes them feel awkward and shy. I would love to hear your thoughts on whether men have a harder time than women receiving compliments.

I would also like to know if you give out a lot of compliments yourself. If yes, do you make an effort to do it, like me, or does it just come naturally?


GSL said...

I try to be reasonably stingy with compliments so they carry more weight and try never to immediately return a compliment as it seems less sincere but thank them and say it later when the context gives it greater meaning. Men thankfully aren't expected to be so generous with compliments as women expect other women to be.
Always when greeting a date, hostess, or any woman who has 'dressed' for the evening, I will single something out to praise them for be it hair, dress, complexion, figure, etc and try to deliver the compliment in artful way that also conveys sincerity.
Jill, I would imagine you are quite well practiced in fielding compliments...?

Jill said...

Hi GSL, so glad you wrote in, I was wondering what you thought about compliments from a man's point of view. I don't know that I get face-to-face compliments very often. I don't think most people do. Maybe I will take a tally this week. I think you are absolutely right--men are not expected to be generous with compliments like women expect other women to be. I feel like in NYC there is a lot of side-eye that women give to each other but a woman will almost never tell another woman she doesn't know very well that she looks great, maybe it's a competition thing? Now you have me thinking that I should conduct a very unscientific poll. I will get back to you with my results! XO, Jill

Suzanne Carillo said...

I decided a few years back to make it a point to go out of my way to compliment a stranger I see if I truly do love something about them. It has taken some time to get over my shyness and just do it. In the end it is so worth it though.

I have been lucky enough to receive such compliments in my life and I know just how wonderful and uplifting they can be.

I'm so glad you experienced that at a time when you really needed it. It is a bit like a hug from a stranger. And honestly, I almost prefer a compliment from someone I don't know because then I know at least it is authentic.


Dawn Collings said...

Compliments are a way of being kind. We should all be so kind.

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

Sorry you have been having a bad week..but that scarf is gorgeous! Knowing you, I can see why she gave the compliment. I love to compliment strangers...women who look like they do not think they have anything positive going on...it is so much fun to see how those compliments light up eyes and brighten faces. I think the faceless social media world has turned our society a bit harsh and critical...quick to criticize when we should be quick to find the beauty in each individual. I hope your week improves!

Jill said...

Hi Suzanne, yes, I'm with you, it has been so worth it to get over my shyness with strangers on NYC streets and just say, Hey you know what? That jacket is fabulous on you! It's very fun to see someone's expression go from either nothing, or maybe even grumpy, to smiling! XO, Jill

Jill said...

Hi Dawn, I absolutely agree with you, compliments are a way of being kind. I think living in New York for so long has really made me realize how kind we need to be to each other. It's so important! XO, Jill

Jill said...

Hi Pam! My week has improved so much! I do agree with you that social media has made society in general so very quick to judge and take someone down, pronto. I do not like that aspect of it at all. I am trying hard these days to find beauty around me, no matter what (I will admit that where I live makes that easy enough to do). And when I find it in a person I just want to tell them so they can know it is appreciated! XO, Jill

Anonymous said...

I typically compliment strangers when something about them catches my eye, if the opportunity strikes. It's so easy to do on social media too (just tap or type a few words).