I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than in each moment that someone on the streets of NYC walked up to my husband to say “thank you for your service” during Fleet Week. My heart practically fell out of my chest (in a good way) when a man at the Mets game saw Aaron, told him to wait right there, and came running back with a beer. And also when the pizza cashier secretly threw in an extra slice of cheese.
If you remember this post from a few weeks back, you know that I think that people are generally good, not bad. Sure, some people do terrible things, or can be rude, conniving, unloyal, and mean, but I think that those things are rarely the defining qualities of a person’s being. We’ve all been rude or mean at some point, but as an entity, we are kind, considerate, and try to do what’s “right.”
Experiencing Fleet Week with Aaron completely solidified my theory of people’s goodness. I know, I know– there are plenty of bad folks out there. But for every one bad egg, there are 500 good ones. The amount of strangers who approached Aaron to thank him for his military service proved (at least to me) that my positive take on the world is reasonable.
The innate goodness of our species can also be found in one of my favorite things in the world: Compliments. I don’t mean that receiving compliments is my favorite thing in the world– I mean giving them out.
I firmly belive that speaking up whenever you think something nice about someone is incredibly important. Just like people had the courage to speak up in thanks to Aaron during Fleet Week, why wouldn’t we say outloud the nice things that pop into our heads? You think your waitress has great eyes? Tell her! (Yes, as a fellow female. You don’t have to leave those kind of compliments to the single guys.) Your friend did a great job organizing a bachelorette party? Tell her how wonderful it was. You noticed someone stand up to a bully? Tell them how brave they are.
Be it about physical appearance, talent, planned events, or anything at all– tell them! Complimenting someone on how great that dress looks on them won’t make you look any less great in yours.
I think we often feel awkward doling out compliments to strangers or acquaintances because we don’t want to come across creepy or weird. But in the experiences when I’ve had strangers say something really nice about me, I have never thought, “man, that person is such a freak.” No, I think about how amazingly kind it was for them to go out of their way to say something that made me feel good. It’s really not weird at all to say nice things to each other. Why would it be?
Perhaps you feel awkward on the receiving end of compliments, which is why you don’t dole them out. That’s a deeper issue, though. If you feel awkward when someone tells you something great about yourself, it’s probably because of one of two reasons:
1. You don’t want to come across cocky by accepting that compliment too easily
2. You don’t believe that what they’re saying is true
In the case of #1, I appreciate the humility, but you can say “thank you” without being an arrogant snob. “Thank you” doesn’t imply anything other than, “I appreciate you saying something so nice to me.” It doesn’t mean you’re enthusiastically agreeing, like, “Oh YES I know! Don’t I look amazing??” No, “thank you” just means “thank you.”
#1 can sometimes blur with #2, which takes things a step further than not wanting to come across cocky. It’s truly believing that you don’t deserve the compliment. Maybe that means you have some introspection and confidence-growth to do. If someone points out something you did well or compliments your appearance, you shouldn’t immediately go to a place of insecurity. When that internal “they’re lying” monologue begins, step back and ask yourself why you don’t believe them. Take the time to see your good qualities, and when you do, you’ll feel far less awkward accepting a compliment. That’s not cockiness– that’s security in the person you are.
Security with yourself doesn’t have to come from a selfish, egotistical place, for the record. I choose to be secure in myself (most of the time, but I’ve certainly hit some bumps recently) because of my faith. The way I personally look at it, God created me, so why would I brush off compliments? That’s kind of like insulting His work. I mean, maybe he didn’t pick out my dress or teach me how to do my hair, but when it comes to talent or general appearance compliments, they’re what God gave me. I know our outer shell or inherent skills aren’t the important stuff, but I’m not going to be ungrateful if other people deem them worthy of a compliment.
Giving strangers compliments is radically important for strengthening mankind (in my opinion), but in the same realm, don’t forget to thank and compliment the people you love, as well. It’s easy to get so comfortable with someone that you no longer feel compelled to tell them lots of nice things, but that is a recipe for disaster. Just as thoughtful words among strangers strengthens mankind, those same words strengthen marriages and other developed relationships. I try to shower Aaron with compliments every day, and he does the same for me, because we both need to feel respected and noticed in order to feel loved. Not to mention, the more we find ways to compliment each other, the more good we see in the other person, which is crucial in counteracting those inevitable moments of frustration.
What I want all of you to take away from this post is this: Speak up when you have something nice to say.
Speak up to thank people, like so many New Yorkers did to Aaron for his service to our country. Speak up to compliment people, whenever you have a nice thought about another person– be it a stranger, friend, parent, sibling, or your spouse. Saying nice things outloud benefits the world more than you may ever realize.