The Power of a Compliment

July 25th, 2014

give complimentsSeven years ago, Dave and I got to sneak away to Hawaii for the weekend while grandma watched our four month old. At the time I was supremely insecure about the 20 lbs of extra baby weight I was still carrying but I threw on a tankini and tried to make the best of it. On our last night there Dave and I went to a very fancy dinner at the very fancy hotel we were staying in. I still didn’t fit into most of my old clothes and so I put on a cotton summer dress from Old Navy. I was far too undressed for the place we were dining but I didn’t have an alternative and so I tried to dress it up with the one nice piece of jewelry I owned at the time… a gold chain necklace.

While at the restaurant I noticed a family I’d seen all week around the hotel was getting up to leave… a husband, a wife, and two twin daughters who were probably seven. I’d noticed them by the pool because all four of them were J. Crew-style beautiful. The dad was handsome, the mom was gorgeous, perfectly coiffed and had a slammin’ body. They were clearly the type of family who enjoyed luxury like this often and by comparison I felt like a ill-kempt country mouse. As they walked by our table the woman looked down at me, came to a stop in her very expensive shoes and told me, “What a fabulous necklace! You look so great tonight!” I was shocked, but thanked her and spent the rest of the night feeling so proud of my ability to pull together a stylish outfit.

It wasn’t until I remembered this encounter years later, that I understood something important. First of all, I hadn’t really looked good enough for this incredibly gorgeous, totally stylish woman to take notice. What I’m guessing she did notice, was me, by the pool all week in my ill-fitting tankini feeling totally insecure surrounded by Dave’s co-workers and their gorgeous wives. She probably noticed from that tell-tale post-baby pouch that I was a new mom. She probably noticed by my body language how insecure I was in that fancy restaurant. And then for no other reason than because she was nice… or maybe because she’d once been in my shoes, she gave me a compliment and made me feel beautiful. 

I am reminded of this story when I think about the power of a compliment. A compliment from a stranger has the ability to turn your whole day around. It can make you hopeful or happy. It can make you love an outfit you thought was terrible. It blesses both the receiver and the giver alike. Giving a compliment has real power to do good in the world and it doesn’t cost you more than 45 seconds of your life. Because I want to be the kind of person who lifts other people up (just like that woman did for me years ago) I developed a little trick to remind myself to give compliments. Every time I go somewhere to buy a coffee I find someone to compliment. Because I buy coffee multiple times a week it means that I hand out at least three or four compliments to strangers and usually more. The thing too is that as soon as I walk into my local Starbucks now I’m looking for positive things in others. That woman’s hair is so shiny, did she blow that out herself? That man’s son is so well behaved, he must be such a proud daddy. My Americano was made perfectly, big shout out to Henry my favorite barista! 

It’s so easy to find something positive when you look for it, so I want to encourage you to look for opportunities to do just that. Maybe tie it to your routine like I have, or set a reminder on your phone… it’s an easy trick to help you spread some cheer and make someone’s day a little brighter. ~Rachel

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