November 10, 2011

The Compliment Challenge

Changing the World One Compliment at a Time

A few months ago, I put out a challenge on my blog. The challenge was simple: give a compliment to someone every day for a month. I was surprised how many people did not take me up on this challenge – and more shocked at the responses by those who did.

Several people told me: “That is so nice you are doing that; I simply don’t have time.” Others simply ignored me. Discouraging.

Then I got a note from one local business owner who joined me on this challenge, and said the following:

“Kathy, I honestly thought I didn’t have time to deal with this. It isn’t going to help me or my business, but what a nice gesture. Then I was at Martin’s and someone complimented my shoes. It was a horrible day, and that one little compliment really brightened my mood. I can honestly credit that woman in the bread section of the grocery store for turning my mood into a good one at just the right time. I was able to head home to my family in a good mood rather than to take all the frustration from my day home to the dinner table. I am joining in on your Challenge, and thank you for opening my eyes to the importance of complimenting those in our day.”

I issued this challenge because, in my line of work, I see and hear women criticizing their appearance over and over again. I have often joked that if I were able to pop my eyeballs out so my clients could see themselves as I see them, I would be a very rich woman! It really is crazy. I have had clients who went on to be models at some very prestigious New York modeling agencies tell me how “fat” they were. Why are we so incredibly critical of ourselves?

Admittedly, I do it, too. I’ve been known to only be photographed on my left side (I think my right side is awkward). When someone compliments me, I’m not sure how to take it and find myself downplaying the compliment.

The truth is we (as women) need those compliments, and I don't think we're getting enough of them.

Okay, yada yada yada – beauty is on the inside – bla bla bla. True. But, don't we all want to be told we look nice? If a random person at the grocery store tells you that they like your (fill in the blank), doesn't it brighten your day? Or what if your significant other suddenly looks at you, stops in his tracks and says, “You are so beautiful.” Come on, admit it; your face brightens, and you feel a little giddy inside!

Studies say it takes saying 10 nice things to someone to undo what one bad thing does to one’s self-esteem. Other studies reveal that we as a society tend to apologize more than we complement each other. “Psychology Today” said in a 2004 article, “compliments are one of the most extraordinary components of social life. If given right, they create so much positive energy that they make things happen almost as if by magic.”

Consider this:

You walk into a tense business situation. Everyone is on edge; perhaps there is bad blood between some of those participating in the meeting. When you walk in, you begin to compliment several people in the room saying things like, “Sally, that is a great color on you.”

“Bob, I saw your son at the baseball diamond over the weekend. He is a star! You must be very proud.”

The meeting starts. You continue your compliments: “Joe, you have done a lot of work on gathering facts, excellent job – thank you for all of your efforts.”

During the discussion you continue, “Mary, your insight on this topic is critical. You are a real expert.”

The tension of the meeting is diffused by your compliments. It isn’t about offering empty praise, but it is about recognizing and calling attention to what you truly appreciate in the other person.

I believe that real beauty shines from the inside out. Integrity, honesty, a pure heart, kindness and giving spirit – all of these shows on the outside. We can see it in the sparkle in someone's eyes, in a smile and in a kind face.

Can you imagine what our church, neighborhood or place of employment would feel like if we, as the women (and dare I say, the backbone!) of our community, started complimenting each other every day?

his article appears in the October 2011 issue of The Family Magazine of Michiana


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