“I can live for two months from a good compliment.” ~ Mark Twain
What if we could improve the disposition, mood, and outlook of someone we never met without the commitment of any money spent, further obligation, or traveling?
Believe it or not, we can.
Without further ado, let me introduce you to The Compliment.
The often overlooked capability of the compliment is so far-reaching and healing that we can make the world a better place simply by using our words.
Do you remember the last time you received a compliment, and how you felt afterward?
We generally don’t think about the kind words we receive from strangers or friends for more than a couple minutes before our headspace moves on to the next fleeting thing. We rarely arrive home and tell our roommate or partner, “You would not believe the compliment I received today.”
However, appreciative words have a profound and subconscious effect on us—more than we cognitively register.
I haven’t given much thought to the power of the compliment until just recently.
The omnipresent and iconic musician Gwen Stefani and I don’t share much in common, except this: we both wear a signature pinkish-red lipstick frequently enough to trademark it! Last weekend, as I marauded around town doing errands, I received at least three compliments applauding the bright color of my pout. Upon hearing the third, I couldn’t help but have fresh spring in my step, and ultimately surrendered to a big and bold smile from my bright lips.
These three love bombs left me feeling renewed and reaffirmed. It was time to pay it forward.
Compliments are the ultimate neutralizer and palate cleanser. Like a swish of water and bite of a cracker in-between wine tastings, the benevolent words break up the internalization of our thoughts, and push us out of our monkey minds and into the present moment.
In an increasingly tech-driven world, where we feel fewer real connections and more disassociation, the face to face compliment simply creates a stronger bond. The compliment is a pertinent sign that someone is paying attention—and the after effects are delightful.
The benefits of complimenting others can be far-reaching and long lasting. As detailed in a Psychology Today article, Christine Carter says that those who express kind words regularly simply live longer, experience less pain, and have lower levels of heart disease, depression, and anxiety.
According to a study conducted with 48 participants by Professor Norihiro Sadato, of the the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan, “To the brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money. We’ve been able to find scientific proof that a person performs better when they receive a social reward after completing an exercise. Complimenting someone could become an easy and effective strategy to use in the classroom and during rehabilitation.”
A natural and instinctual reaction to both giving and receiving a compliment is production of a smile. And when we smile, endorphins are released, resulting in a jolt of the feel-good chemical, serotonin. Additionally, we can enjoy these brain enhancements by simply witnessing the kind acts of others. This is known as the “Mother Theresa Effect,” coined by a group of Harvard researchers that documented emotional improvements expressed by participants after viewing a documentary about Mother Theresa’s life work.
Here are a few reminders of the compliment’s finer attributes and capabilities:
>> It is free. No matter how budget-conscious or restricted we might be at different times in our lives, offering the charitable gift of a compliment is 100 percent zero cost to you. No, it’s not tax deductible, but the compliment is a prime example of the old adage: the best things in life are free. We can keep the change jar on our desk and dole out compliments instead. Coincidentally, compliments taste good, but they are fat, sugar, and calorie free.
“We are prepared for insults, but compliments leave us baffled.” ~ Mason Cooley
>> It is contagious. Compliments can create a ripple effect of goodwill that can quickly spread beyond our zip code. Compliments beget more compliments. Consider the possibility of sharing a compliment with someone who is en route to the airport, and he or she decides to pay it forward to others at a new locale. Pow! Transcontinental good vibes achieved. There may also be a karmic association associated with compliments—what we put out to others verbally could come back to us in spades.
“I will be generous with my love today. I will sprinkle compliments and uplifting words everywhere I go. I will do this knowing that my words are like seeds and when they fall on fertile soil, a reflection of those seeds will grow into something greater.” ~ Steve Maraboli
>> It is altruistic. A genuine compliment is one of the highest honors we can bestow on another, especially if it comes from the heart. If you run into someone unknown to you, and they are seemingly having a rotten day or looking downtrodden and you think of something complimentary to say to him or her, consider this a kismet compliment situation. Don’t hesitate—manifest the dialogue you are destined to exchange.
“I think you need to love giving compliments as much as you love receiving them.” ~ Yami Gautman
>> It is cathartic. Introverts can experience particular difficulty giving or receiving compliments—especially receiving them. Graciously receiving and acknowledging compliments is an important act of self-love that can substantially boost self-esteem and confidence. I still struggle accepting a compliment without blushing, but I strive to receive them with grace and appreciation.
“You have to love yourself or you’ll never be able to accept compliments from everyone.” ~ Dean Wareharm
As the new year approaches, I don’t have any resolutions in mind, but I do have a mission—to deliver at least two earnest and spontaneous face-to-face compliments to strangers each day. And if I miss a day or two along the way due to being housebound, my dog’s confidence level will be off the charts.
The compliment serves as a hopeful and sumptuous reminder that one of the greatest gifts we can give and receive costs nothing more than a little extra gumption and sincerity.
Author: Kristen Ward
Image: Ryan McGuire/gratisography
Apprentice Editor: Bill Rugg
Editor: Emily Bartran
Social Editor: Catherine Monkman
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