Life Experiment: Compliment with Care
I have always loved complimenting people. I do it in the grocery store, at work, at happy hour...really wherever I am. I compliment their sweater, boots, jacket, hair style, jewelry, watch, whatever it is that I appreciate and think is interesting, beautiful and/or unique. I love the smile it brings to their face and the joy it brings them to feel acknowledged.
I started in college when it helped me make friends, or to develop a comfortable seat mate in large classrooms. I realized over time the habit of complimenting people has changed my brain. I unintentionally trained myself to notice things I really appreciate about other people as soon as I encounter them. What started as a way to make friends has turned into a full blown rewiring of my brain!
Recently I’ve started to rethink my method. I realized that I overvalued how people approved (or not) of my looks over my true gifts of intelligence, creativity, kindness, patience and humor. I am a firm believer in that you get what you put out there, so I worked to place more value on my non-image qualities by paying attention to my self-talk. If I started picking at myself about my appearance, I’d catch myself and say something nice to myself about how good of a mom I am, how smart I am, or my strength and resilience from eating so well. Or how funny that joke was I said the other day, even if no one else got it...
I started to actively compliment people on things that were deeper than their physical appearance, such as how well they communicated something, how hard they worked to accomplish a goal, how creatively they solved a situation, how creative they were with teaching their kids numbers, or how beautiful their photography skills were.
This became really important to me after I read “Growth Mindset” by Carol Dweck and how it relates to raising our children. The book discussed how we should compliment and acknowledge things in our (and other) children related to their efforts as opposed to their looks or a set accomplishment. “Wow you have such great concentration when you are building that tower” as opposed to “Great job for always getting an A on your report card.” And we women know the damage of only complimenting little girls on only how ‘cute’ or ‘perfect’ they are. I think the same holds true for only complimenting little boys on how good they are at sports.
I believe you attract what you’re paying attention to, and by switching my mentality to people and children’s inner amazingness, I was able to observe and compliment things beyond the surface. It helped me become grateful and aware of all these great skills my friends and family have. It also helped me quiet my inner voice of competition or inadequacy that sometimes can get a little too loud by valuing things in myself beyond my surface appearance.
Here’s the experiment for you to try -
- At the grocery store, playground, around the water cooler, on Facebook, compliment people on things that have nothing to do with their appearance.
- When interacting with children compliment them on their efforts and things that aren’t gender stereotypes.
- Work on your self-talk by monitoring how you talk to yourself. When you hear yourself starting to go down that rabbit hole of nitpicking neurosis, reinforce your own inner amazingness with compliments - tell yourself how smart you are, what a good mom you are. Tell yourself how creative or funny you are. Model for your little people how you know your value is more than your exterior, so obviously theirs is too!
Let me know how it goes in the comments!