Spread compliments like confetti but don’t hoard them



When was the last time you received a compliment? For most of us, quite a while, maybe weeks or months even? Yet, it’s so easy to pay a compliment. It doesn’t cost a thing and makes the recipient feel oh, so good. And you create a better connection between you and the recipient.

“I love your haircut; it flatters your face.”

“That dress you wore looked great on you.”

“The dessert you served with that big bowl of fresh red raspberries and whipped cream was just the absolute best. I’d love the recipe.”

As we retreated to our homes and hunkered down with family during COVID-19, we lost some of our social civility, We forgot how nice it was to have someone recognize something about us or what we did and express it to us in person.

As second-best choices, we’ll take compliments by phone, email or text but we know that these less personal versions are different from a face-to-face version. They may lack the same exuberant praise and facial expression when the voice rises, and there seems to be an exclamation point hanging in the air!

Now that we’re re-emerging more publicly and getting into our old routines more often, we think it’s important to dust off our pandemic ways and remember how good we feel when someone takes notice: “Would you mind me asking whose shoes those are, they’re absolutely darling.” Or “I just love your eyeglasses. Where did you get them or whose are they?”

If we never learned to compliment for whatever reason, we think it’s time to start.

Maybe, ask yourself why. Some people simply find it tough to do so as if there were a limit on how many they can dole out. Maybe, they think it takes away from them. As a result, they never notice a new hair style, piece of furniture in our home, or all the nice things we do in the community where we each live. Or they only compliment us when we’ve complimented them, that tit-for-tat mentality. Putting a like on a Facebook post isn’t the same. Writing something may be better but still doesn’t measure up in our book.

Barbara recalls a business newspaper article she wrote for a daily paper where she worked for many years. An editor called out one article each week he thought most worthy and explained why. One week hers on a traveling shoe salesman’s job was cited as a highly personalized tale. She recalls one or two in the entire newsroom congratulating her. She wondered why. Was it envy, failure to read it, or did they not know how to be kind or what to say?

Currently, when there’s so much sadness, illness and deaths everywhere and terrible wars raging, we should work harder at spreading good will like confetti. Shower it everywhere.

When compliments aren’t part of your repertoire how do you insert them? Here’s our technique. Try expressing one compliment a day, and when you see the reaction we bet more will roll of your tongue. For example, a server gives you a free cappuccino, you thank the barista for the swirl of foam. You might try, “It made my latte so much prettier and more delicious.” Next time we bet they’ll add even more foam or give you a large size even if you ordered a small. For that surprise free dessert, thank the server and add a bit more tip.

Tell your neighbor how nice they are about always asking how your dog is when you see them in the elevator or hallway. Tell the cashier at your grocery store how well they bagged your groceries, especially not putting the carton of eggs at the bottom, underneath the heavy box of detergent. Tell your seatmate at an art class you love the way she painted the mountains and sky. Tell the person on the tennis court how well they play. Use detail such as, “Your strategy at the net is wonderful to watch.” Specifics make it extra special, like writing a more personal thank you instead of the generic, basic, “Thanks for the gift.”

If you’re still unsure how to start, practice on a complete stranger. Say something to a teenager who gives up a seat on the subway to an older person, “That was such a nice gesture. Your parents taught you well.”

And don’t take your family members and closest friends for granted. Remember to shower them with compliments. “Thanks for taking the time to unload the dishwasher and put away everything. That was really helpful.”

In turn, when you are complimented, know how to respond. Say nicely, “Thank you, that was so kind; it made me feel so good.”

Before long, complimenting is likely to become automatic. But be wary of not overdoing compliments or they may come across as insincere or even backfire. A false compliment can create a bad taste on the tongue. For example, don’t compliment effusively your friend for making a certain recipe if you don’t like it. If you do, you may get it every time you dine at their home.

A compliment to someone can make their day. “I love that color blue on you. It matches your eyes.” And as the person you complimented walks away feeling valued, they might compliment the next person they see and on and on. This is the type of virus we hope to spread in a healthy way.