I have a friend who naturally compliments every person she talks to. Literally every person. Every time she sees me, whether I’m sweaty from a yoga class or dressed to the nines, she tells me how beautiful I look. And I know she's not focusing on superficial details. She is simply being present, attentive and generous with her positive energy.
I know this because she gives warmth and attention to women at the grocery store checkout counter, her co-workers, and other peripheral people she encounters in day-to-day life. I’ve heard her speaking on the phone to people she doesn’t know, and compliment them on the passion and energy she hears in their voice for something. And it’s not just women she compliments: she also has a smooth way of giving men compliments without seeming like she's hitting on them.
In other words, her mode of complimenting people strikes me as 100% genuine. She is just speaking her mind — with no agenda to flatter or get something from someone in return for her compliment. I watch her leave a wake of warm fuzzies in the hearts and minds of every person that she interacts with, all day long. It is amazing to behold.
The National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan actually conducted a double blind study to measure the effect of receiving a compliment, and found it to be equal to receiving cash. Specifically, researchers found that the same area in the brain, the striatum, is activated when a person receives a compliment as when they are given money.
I know that some people give compliments with an objective, which is usually to sell something, or get something (validation, attention, etcetera) in return. And when I receive those compliments, they feel sleazy and super disingenuous to me. It's actually pretty easy to tell the difference.
I walked into a shop once and the sales clerk said, “I like your bracelet,” sounding as if she repeats this phrase every time she notices there is something on a customer’s wrist. “It’s a rubber band,” I replied. This kind of compliment is not what I’m talking about.
But I believe real, authentic, from-the-heart comments that uplift the recipient can also feel good to dish out. As anyone who ever gives gifts knows, it is often more fun to give than to receive. Generating more positive energy through this very simple act can be a powerful way to make a difference in the world.
There’s one hurdle for me though: my friend is an extrovert, and I am an introvert. The same things that she says to people easily, I often think but don’t say. I feel too shy, awkward and all bundled up in my introvert self. But what if I considered alternative ways of being. That is, what I if I just did say what was on my mind?
I am blown away multiple times a day by the beauty that I see in others — not just physical beauty, but the loving way someone is with their child, the care with which people execute their jobs, or the warmth of someone’s smile. Could other people handle it if I told them what I am really thinking?
I’ve decided to try an experiment. I am partial to these experiments as you know if you read my post about stopping complaining for a week, which actually was transformational for me. So this week, I am going to do an experiment in pushing my own comfort zone and offering up compliments as often as possible.
What will happen? Would you like to try it with me and find out?
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