The Power of a Sincere Compliment


About a year ago, I received an incredible compliment from someone whose opinion I value a lot: my mother. “I’m not sure the exact point in your life at which you became my hero,” she wrote in an e-mail. “It has been subtle and gradual. And yet again…you continue to grow into an amazing woman that is beautiful inside and out.”

Speechless then and speechless now. And more than a little humbled.

Usually I’m no good at taking compliments. While I’ve trained myself to smile and say “thank you” — or at least TRY to do that — often I’m left stammering, if not dumbfounded all the way to silence.

Anyone know the feeling?

Why do we have such a hard time sitting with compliments? Do we feel unworthy of the kind words? Are we so cynical that we doubt complimenters’ motives? If they like what we’re doing/how we look/who we are today, could that mean they didn’t like us yesterday?

Maybe our expectations of ourselves are SO high that we judge what other people deem as awesome is just average… expected… a “C.” (“You have to stop being such an over-achiever,” a wise colleague once told me. “There’s nothing wrong with just achieving.” I’m still letting that one sink in.)

But I digress…

Today’s homework is practicing the art of PAYING AND RECEIVING GENUINE COMPLIMENTS.

Pick a person — and not just someone you like or the friend whose hair *always* looks great. Maybe you notice an acquaintance who seems to be smiling more than usual, perhaps you acknowledge the extra effort a co-worker has been putting in at the office or around the house. Maybe it’s praise for your usually surly teenager, frustrating mother-in-law or demanding boss.

Send a text. Leave a voice message. Mail a card. Jot it on a sticky note. Hell, pull them aside to say it face-to-face. Offer it up in front of their peers. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it. And mean it.

Never underestimate the power of a sincere compliment. You might just make someone’s day.

The second part of the homework is to practice taking a compliment with grace. Let go of the feelings of “not good enough” to accept the fact that — gasp! — someone is impressed with you. You’re leaving your mark and making an impact. Ride that wave!

Then file it away for a rainy day, so that the next time you’re feeling a little stuck, a little blue, a little “less than”… you can pull out that piece of paper, listen to that voicemail, dust off that memory and remember:

You. Are. Incredible.

I mean that.

honest compliment

genuine compliment

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