Mark Twain said, "I could live for two months on a good compliment." As usual, he hit the nail squarely on the head. What most of us need, even long for, is acknowledgment. We want to be appreciated. We ache to be noticed.
Think about the morning after a new hair cut. Think of the way you try to talk yourself out of waiting breathlessly for someone to notice. Think of the slightly deflated feeling when no one does. Remember the delight when one observant, thoughtful someone actually mentions it. Noticing is such an easy joy to give away.
But this post isn't just about compliments. Compliments are one of the easiest ways to offer encouragement, but there is so much more. We can offer a smile to a sour face, carry a bag for an over-loaded shopper, give a sincere compliment to a stranger, a friend, a child. Leave a big tip when we're feeling flush. Write a note to someone going through a hard time. Mail it. Email it. Leave it on their desk. Take a meal to a new mother or a friend with a sick child, parent, spouse... The next time you buy yourself a candy bar, buy one for a co-worker. Leave it on their desk with a smiley face post it note.
The most important ingredient in encouragement is noticing. I think we have to cultivate a habit of noticing the people around us. Who looks happy? Ask them why. Give them a chance to share their story. Who looks sad? Take a moment. Tell them you are thinking of them. Offer to listen, or help, or pray, or hug. Who has a new hair cut, a new outfit, a new shade of lipstick? Tell them you noticed. Tell them you like it. Whose mother is in the hospital? Send a card. To your friend. And their mother. Who is having a birthday? Don't forget that card. Call their house when you know they aren't home. Sing The Birthday Song on their answering machine. Tie a balloon to their car's side view mirror. Like a book, or a photograph, or an article? Write a fan letter. Whose child was just in the newspaper or played an amazing game? Tell them you saw it, heard it, watched it. Say, "You must be so proud."
And listen. You have to listen. To be an encourager you must listen.
You must listen. And notice. And take the time to do something about it.
What if we all did this? Even just once a day? What if we all encouraged one person every single day? What kind of world would we live in? The lesson ends like this:
"You just winked at a very plain looking woman," I said.
"Yes, I know," he replied. "And, if she's a schoolteacher, her class will be in for a fantastic day."
Ain't it the truth?
A compliment feels just like being handed a bouquet of flowers. Le bouquet by nicouze, here. The story excerpt by Art Buchwald, Looking Out, Looking In.