Back when I worked in the Admissions Office of my college, I made friends with one of the (non-student) staff who manned the office. Patricia was a total sweetheart, and we had many a laugh together over the four years I worked there. At 6'1" tall, Patricia towered over me. She was more than a decade older, with a teenage son. But we had a great relationship.
One of the things that struck me early on about Patricia was that she offered compliments so freely, and so often. Every day when I walked in, she would have something sweet to say. "Oh, your hair looks good like that." or "I love your shoes."
Is there any better way to make friends with someone? LOL.
It didn't take me long to figure that secret out, so I would start finding ways to compliment as well. Sometimes in creative ways, sometimes in those same simple observations. But you know what? Those who give them freely don't often get them as regularly, and Patricia was often surprised, her thanks startled and genuine. I began saying in response to baffled thanks, "Hey, compliments are easy."
It became a bit of a joke between us, this genuine complimenting and then laughing response.
At the ACFW conference last week, I was thinking a lot about Patricia. Not that she was a writer or anything (grins), but because those lessons she taught me about complimenting came back to visit. In a situation where one meets a lot of new people, or people one usually only sees online, it's easy to get overwhelmed by it all, or to feel a little lost in the crowd. But it takes so little to make someone feel comfortable.
"Wow, that's a great skirt."
"You have the most perfect hair."
"Well aren't you adorable!"
Easy things to say. Simple to come up with. But not so simple to the person hearing them. To the recipient, a compliment can settle, can lift up, can encourage, can edify.
I received a few at ACFW that made me smile. And I tried to give some that would do the same for others. Because compliments are easy. They don't cost me anything, they don't take any effort. It's no sacrifice at all to say something nice to someone. So why don't I do it all the time?
Because the one thing compliments DO require of us is to look away from ourselves long enough to notice someone else.
I make a concerted effort to do this, but it took a bit of training. I couldn't tell you how often I thought nice things but didn't say them before I learned this lesson from Patricia. Why did I hold my tongue? Couldn't tell ya. Probably because it was easier not to engage someone at all.
But that's not who I want to be. I want to be someone who can make you smile, make you laugh. I want to be someone who brightens your day, just as so many of you brighten mine. We can all be a little self-focused now and then, and to a point there's nothing wrong with that. But I really, really hope I never forget this lesson. That every time someone says something nice to me, it serves as a reminder for me to give even more.
So a big THANK YOU! to all of you who lift me up day after day with your comments and emails, to those who made me grin at the conference with the nice things you said about me. And while I can't exactly offer individual encouragement to y'all here and now since I have no idea who is reading this (ha ha), I can tell you this: your words make a difference. You're appreciated and loved. You make my life richer.
Now, accepting compliments graciously, humbly, but without denying them and thereby calling the giver a liar . . . that's a whole other post. ;-)