When was the last time someone gave you a compliment? How did that make you feel?
Now, when was the last time you gave someone a compliment? How did that make you feel? Or do you even know?
My mom was THE giver of compliments. People fawned all over her wherever she went. It wasn’t only because she gave out so many compliments. It was more about how she made people feel about themselves. And that love came back to her.
She never gave a false compliment. No, no phony praise from her. That wasn’t her style. Rather, she looked for things about everyone to compliment. (She once told me you could find something good about anyone, although you might have to look longer at some people than others. And when someone tries my patience, I look at him or her until I find something to like.)
I remember when I was in my preteens and I would just cringe when she would call out to someone when we were shopping: “That dress sure looks beautiful on you!” “My, what a handsome man you are!” “Hey, good lookin’. Where are you doing dressed like that?” “That hairstyle is so perfect for you.” “You look great.”
I was horrified, and to this day I cannot tell you why it embarrassed me to my core that she did that. But one day she taught me a lesson I have never forgotten, and I never cringed again. In fact, it was many years later when I caught myself calling out to someone with a compliment that I realized I had not only learned the lesson, but I had also picked up the habit and had made it my own.
She was “auditing” a community college course in fashion design at the time, because we couldn’t afford the tuition for her to actually take the course for credit. At that time, most teachers would let you sit in on their course and participate, free of charge, and not call you out about your “less than student” status.
She loved that class more than any she ever took, I do believe. She drew fantastic things and had many friends who did likewise. Their designs filled my head and heart that summer.
She also came home with wonderful stories about her class and the other students. She kept telling me about this rather plus-sized woman from Nigeria who was in her class. This woman wore caftans she had designed and sewn herself, made of many bright colors and wild fabrics. I couldn’t wait to meet her.
One day, my mom had gotten permission to bring me to class and I gladly tagged along. We sat in the back, so we wouldn’t disturb anyone and suddenly I saw her. In fact, you couldn’t miss her. I had never seen anything like her bright purple, royal blue, hot pink, lemon yellow, brilliant red and electric green caftan. And she was wearing a matching scarf wrapped around and around her head. And to top it all off, she had this large fly sitting on one nostril.
My mom had told me in advance that sometimes this woman had problems at home and she would come to class sad, and every now and then you could tell she had been crying. This day must have been a bad day at home. She slumped in with her head down and quietly took a seat off to the side. I was surprised, because her dress was sunny, wild and fabulous. But her demeanor was gloom and sadness.
My mom leaned over to me and said, “Watch this.” Then she called out to that woman and said with sincerity, “Girl, you look so regal in that outfit that I don’t know if I am worthy of being in the same room!” For just a moment, I thought I would die of embarrassment. Here I was in a college classroom for the first time and she was going to pull one of those mortifying moments?
But then the woman turned to us, her eyes swollen and red rimmed from crying. And then, like magic and almost in slow motion, her mouth opened and she smiled the biggest smile I had ever seen. I mean, full teeth out there smile. And her eyes crinkled up and she let out the most wonderful laugh. I was in complete awe, not only of her beauty at that moment, but of my mom’s ability to turn this woman’s whole day around with a simple sentence.
She thanked my mom and came over and talked to us for a few minutes before class started. (I couldn’t stop staring at that fly, which turned out to be a nose ring. I was in awe!) And when she returned to her seat, she was a different person, lively and animated during the lecture and discussion. My mom nudged me at some point and said, “See. That’s what you do for someone when you give them a compliment.”
It was like she answered the question that had been in my head every time I had seen her do it before. But I had never until that day paid attention to the result. What a marvelous gift to give, to change someone’s life for the moment with a kind and honest word.
To this day, I call out to people to give them compliments. “Girl, that new hair color is awesome!” “Has anyone ever told you what a beautiful man you are?” Yes, I get weird looks and replies from time to time, but the love I give and receive are more than worth any embarrassment.
Give someone a compliment today. And if someone gives you one, accept it fully and enjoy it without hesitation. This feeling is one of the great moments of life.
What was the best comment you’ve ever received? Share it with me in the comments. And if this post makes you happy, please share it with someone else.