Compliments! How many of us know the art of complimenting? In fact, the times today are such that a compliment is always viewed with doubt. The other day, a friend mentioned to me that she met an acquaintance at a party who was looking pretty and so she complimented the said acquaintance. The acquaintance, in turn, got so conscious that she kept asking throughout the party whether something was amiss about her look and why did my friend say what she said (a.k.a the compliment). This is probably not uncommon. Most of us cannot take a compliment these days. We get suspicious immediately. The fact is we either think someone is fake complimenting or that we really do not deserve to be complimented. In both cases, we are being judgmental. Aren’t we? We don’t allow ourselves a moment to shine, to bask in self-appreciation that a compliment subtly involves.
On the other hand how many of us really give genuine compliments? Today’s world is hard to please. Many people say that they don’t know how to use flowery words. This somehow is supposed to convey some sort of genuineness on their part while making those who compliment sound fake, and yes, many people belong to this category. Of course, complimenting shouldn’t equate with flattery/sycophancy at all; it needs to be genuine. It needs to come from a place that everyone has something good in them and that needs to be recognized.
Little compliments do matter. Toddlers and preschoolers are the best examples of how. They perform for applause and repeat. What a child can clearly demonstrate, we cannot. That humans are hungry somewhere for appreciation. That all the appreciation is not sycophancy or flattery. That it does make you feel better. How hard can it be to accept compliments gracefully? How hard is it to say kind words to someone? It can be anything. The other day, on a message board I follow, someone wrote a book review and she wrote at the outset that her writing was bad. Her writing indeed had left a lot to be desired for. However, the group moderators set the tone for further conversation. They all complimented the woman for the fact that her review gave them a good idea of the book. They complimented her for her passion for reading, due to which, she took this first step of writing a review and getting over her fear of writing. I felt their way of complimenting was spot on. It was genuine. It showed they had read the whole review despite bad writing and grammar which can be a turn off for many. That they appreciated her active participation. What they began was carried on by other members and this encouraged the woman to post one more review, this time she had proofread the post through her friend – she claimed. Thus beginning to improve her writing quality. This is, of course, an example from the virtual world. She declared her low confidence at the beginning itself. More often than not, posts with bad writing do get trolled very easily. Therefore the moderators who were kind enough need to be applauded. In real life, we mostly don’t declare our lack of confidence or demotivated mindset to the world. It’s trickier. But just imagine, what sunshine a simple unsolicited compliment can bring to someone in a similar situation!
I definitely know now, what a difference they can make. I happened to receive some genuine compliments yesterday and today – somehow I do not remember having received them with such a pleasure over years! Probably because they were received after ages for something that I was appreciated for during my younger days! They brought cheer to my day and even the days to come. I genuinely felt happy. Motivated even. I thought over it. I, who am not a graceful receiver of compliments and probably my way of giving compliments too is awkward and cautious because I keep thinking that the other person shouldn’t get the wrong idea that I am flattering them for no reason – am finally convinced that compliments are genuine verbal sunshine and that everyone needs it. Everyone needs to receive it and emit it every now and then so that the world, in general, is a happier place.
We women especially – after marriage and child, are prominently in the role of a caregiver. We are busy motivating, boosting other members of our family and we rarely think about our qualities and attributes that once were appreciated – by friends, parents, at work. It’s not a conscious decision by the other members of the family, but definitely, our emotional well being does take a backseat in all the other hustles and hassles of family life and the larger scheme of things. Suddenly one day someone notices you for your work/qualities – and you feel genuine happiness. So this is a post to say thank you to my payers of compliments.
In conclusion, I’d like to share something that Gaur Gopal Das has said in his latest book – Life’s Amazing Secrets, which I finished reading earlier in the month. This is the real reason I got thinking about compliments in the first place. While discussing relationships, he gave the analogy of financial instruments – that one cannot withdraw without investing. Like financial instruments, our relationships need investing and there are various ways he explores – but one important way is to compliment. A lot. There are ways to build trust first – after which we gain the right to really offer negative/corrective feedback if any. However, the person to whom we offer such feedback will be receptive only if s/he feels adequately appreciated by us for their qualities. Most of what we learn in OB or Human Resources as a subject/psychology or even plain old ancient pithy proverbs such as आधी स्तुती, मग विनंती! (a Marathi saying which means ‘request only after praise’) point to something similar. Still, we need to be reminded of it time and again! In fact, if I have to introspect on how much I have ‘invested’ in all of my relationships by way of compliments, I know I haven’t done enough. About time I changed this. While the book specifically focuses on relationships, my post is also about the compliment to all and sundry. The least we can do is brighten someone’s day with a genuine compliment. I know, I will start immediately.