I remember my mom said something to me once which stuck immediately and forever. Likely because it resonated deeply with my fundamental desire to connect with people and have the world an idealistic and happy place. She said we often go out of our way to point out flaws or take time and effort to make complaints, yet if we have a fleeting complimentary thought we rarely share it or take the time to compliment. Something like that. From that day forward I owned that and for probably 25 years implement it almost daily or many times in a day. It has made me a happier person.
I wish I had been that diligent an advice follower when she said things like “wear sunscreen” or “save for retirement” or “I would not date that guy if I were you”. Cest la vie.
Now they have to be GENUINE compliments for me. I am not one to blow sunshine up your ass, as my close friends and family will tell you. I think calling a spade a spade is the kindest way to really support loved ones.
So how does this work? If I am in line somewhere and I think a woman in the next line over has fabulous hair I will lean over and say “excuse me but I just wanted to tell you that your hair is FABULOUS. Like a movie star”. That person may be having the worst day, battling depression or living her version of a perfect life. Regardless you may have just made their day. I think because I am being genuine it can warm up even the most aloof person, even if it initially takes them aback. It really is not done a lot in our society sadly. I incorporate it into everything I do. I say “thank you for such attentive service. You are really great at your job” to a great server or customer service rep, lawyer… you name it. If that is what I feel.
Now take it a step further. I see long lines say at the postal office before Christmas, or 10% off Tuesdays at Safeway. 2 things happen in this order.
- My ADD brain kicks in and starts thinking about how long we will be standing in that line practically being tortured and trying to postpone (procrastinate or ignore) whatever it is I am there to do.
- I look at the cashier, postal worker, hostess and feel their frustration or being overwhelmed by person after person annoyed to wait, in a rush, and intentionally or not intentionally blaming them. Maybe you do not blame them but you are still tired, busy and focussed on your next task.
I love to go out of my way not to pay them a fake compliment, rather if one does not cross my thoughts, I will open with. “Wow your job must be hard. I bet people you deal with are usually tired or frustrated. That must suck” It looks a little condescending in writing but I assure you it is not. I once told a dentist. “I think you have the hardest medical profession” she sort of looked wearily at me and said “oh?”. I replied “you look in people’s stinky mouths all day, do things that are unpleasant or that people dread, and many dislike you before they even walk in the door. Let alone thank you or show great appreciation”. I mean it is true, or at least how I see it. Her face got teary and she touched my arm and said “Thank you for seeing that. I really needed someone to realize that”. Wow. Was no extra effort on my part. Just saying a compliment or thought out loud. Trying to put myself in others shoes as they say.
It may mean everything to that person. Also I think the more positive things you say out loud, the more positive things you attract. My brain is now wired to think positive things first. I really like that about myself . Even if it means I sometimes get hurt or people misunderstand my intentions.
I will share a time when a stranger touched my life in the very moment I needed it. My dear friend Norma ( I will write about our story one day) was in hospice dying from cancer. It was very sudden and from when we took her to the hospital for her cough she never even got to go home again to sort her stuff or say goodbye. So I was heading home from a visit where I had remarked to her that I had never seen her in my life without perfect manicure and pedicure. She just always looked put together. She looked happier than I had seen in weeks and said “Yes! That would be wonderful. Purple would be a great last colour (I choked back tears)”. Then in delightfully Norma fashion she said “like a lavender except brighter, deeper but without being too blue”. Hmmm ok. I left my daily visit promising to return the next day an expert beautician, then bawled all the way home.
After I fed my dogs and tried to wash my face to look less sleep deprived, puffy and red I headed to the neighborhood Shoppers Drug Mart. I googled how to give a good mani/pedi and since I had my own nails done at a local place, I had no supplies. I was wandering around the cosmetic aisles blankly with no ability to focus or think. When I entered I had been greeted by a friendly and very tall woman whom asked if I needed a hand. I declined, not wanting to talk to anyone. After a few minutes of watching me stare at the shelves, feeling hopeless at the simplicity and also importance of this task, she came over and with a big smile leaned towards me and said ” you look like you need a hug” or maybe “you look like you need a friend”. I have remembered it both ways (I am bawling writing this ).
Either way I got both a hug and a friend. I explained the situation to her and she led me merrily about the store finding the best tools and best deals on them. She gave me a pretty cosmetic bag to put it all in for Norma and added some fun samples and treats. That was a tough time for me as one of my manifestations ‘on the ADD / Spectrum’ neurodiversity (which is also my superpower I know now) is that I feel things extremely intensely and my feelings take a lot longer than neurotypical to fade or lose the immediate intensity. I know this about myself so tried to ignore it to be 100% there for Norma and her family. As she was the human who likely came closest in my life to totally understanding me, I was holding on by a thread. That one little encounter filled my soul up enough to pull it together and keep on keeping on. It meant everything.
I challenge you to try this or share this. Comment below and tell me of a time someone paid you an unexpected compliment or you reached out to a stranger.