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All About Compliments; Including the Best One I Ever Received

Ape Thinking

I have been fortunate to have received quite a bit of feedback over the years —and given the overthinking, analytical person I am — it replays often over and over in my head. Feedback – I welcome all of it — good and bad — because I’d rather talk about authentic things (even if it stings!) rather than waste time on bullshit small talk.

Anyway, about 4 years ago, I received some feedback that has since carried the distinction of being the best compliment I’ve ever gotten. As you can imagine, I’ve thought about that feedback often in the last 4 years and it’s still my favorite (even though there are second and third place compliments that have since been identified). 

I’ll leave you in suspense a little bit and talk a little about the value of giving compliments, no matter how small, as well as the value of receiving compliments ‘the right way’.

First – with regards to receiving compliments, don’t be the kind of person that hears something nice and dismisses it or shoots it down. For instance, if someone says “that’s a beautiful dress that you’re wearing today”. Say thank you (rule number one). Don’t undercut or downplay the person’s kind sentiment and say, “Thanks. This old thing? I hate how it makes my hips look so wide.” Always be sure to say thank you. PERIOD. Say thank you and pause, and if the situation warrants it, feel free to expand with more information like, “Thank you. I just got it online from Target. It’s on sale this week for $16.” Or if the compliment wasn’t very detailed like, “That’s a beautiful ring”, you can offer more details and ask a question to engage the person in dialogue. Something like, “Thank you. It was my Grandmother’s. What made you notice it?” Or, “Thank you. It was my Grandmother’s. Are you a fan of vintage jewelry?”. Make sure if you respond with a follow up question, it’s one that encourages an exploration of the topic — not a question that casts doubt on the compliment giver’s taste. If someone compliments your green sweater, you should not respond with something like, “What? So you think I look good dressed as Shrek’s mom?” These may not be the most practical examples, I know, but I’m super busy with my #momhustle and hopefully you get my point. 

Just remember, any time you’re complimented, receive the compliment fully and with a thank you and a smile. Embrace the compliment. Bask in it and allow yourself to feel gratitude. Breathe in those kind words and let them into your heart and your brain. Take the time to think about the person who paid you that compliment. That person cares enough about you that they went out of their way to say something nice. Don’t be a turd and dismiss their opinion. 

Next, giving compliments…If you’re like me, thoughts run through your mind all the time and you think about everything. Recognize your thoughts. Recognize your feelings and then SHARE them! Here’s an example — if you’re in a meeting and the topic is kind of heavy and you felt someone in the meeting had a great way of communicating a complicated topic, or maybe a person responded to a tough question with grace, take the time after the meeting to tell that person how you felt about their behavior. Maybe this person isn’t sure how the information was received or maybe they don’t know how effectively they handled a tough question. Maybe this person doesn’t usually speak up in meetings and they’re worried or feel regret for saying something. Take the time to give that person positive feedback. Not only is it kind, it may give that person the confidence he or she needs which may lead to more of the behavior you noticed in the first place. Small things can have a big impact. Your compliment can help that person see themselves in a different light. Take the time and connect with other people.

Speaking of connecting with other people, I need to do more of that. In my role at work, I’m lucky to be able to work from home four days per week – that means one extremely long (yet satisfying!) back-to-back meetings day in the office per week. On Tuesdays, I pack my day with in-person meetings to try to make the best use of my in-person time to solve our toughest problems. I don’t usually leave time for a lunch break and our office is quite big and I’m often speed walking/jogging from one end of the facility to the other to make my next meeting. I’m usually carrying my backpack on my back, laptop, mouse, mousepad, cell phone in my hands, and might have a can of Coke gripped between my teeth. Needless to say, I don’t give off the “approachable” vibe. 

Anyway, I’ll further paint the picture of the day I received the best compliment ever. I’m in between meetings waiting for my food to heat up in the microwave and staring off into space. I honestly have no idea what I was thinking about, but something must’ve been going on with my body language / face because my friend Bruce asked me what was running through my mind. 

I was likely deep in some insightful thought (because thinking is one of the things I’m most passionate about) and likely annoyed at being interrupted (sorry Bruce!) and being a person often deep in thought and a person who is very literal, I told him exactly what it was I was thinking about (not taking the time to consider whether it was weird or made sense). And that’s when it happened. Bruce said, “You know, I would pay money to be able to listen to a live stream of what goes through your mind”. 

And there you have it folks — the very best compliment I’ve ever received.

Why? Number one, I think Bruce is brilliant and respect his thought processes and therefore his opinion. Number two, it was a personal compliment about what makes me ME — not something about the shoes or shirt I was wearing that day — ME. Number three, it was specific and he’d pay money to hear what was going on in my brain! He’s placing value on something that largely resides with just me.

The compliment led to a brief conversation (after all, I did have a meeting to go to) but it was so fulfilling for several reasons. First, it further strengthened my friendship with Bruce and my opinion of him. It ended up being a welcome interaction (not just an interruption) and it was empowering. I’ve received a lot of compliments on how my brain works, how unique my thought processes are, and the way I’m able to look at things. All of those are wonderful compliments, but they focus on the internal — how my brain works. He helped me remember that people want to hear what I have to say. It wasn’t just a “keep using your brain like the powerhouse you are” message. The deeper meaning was “get those thoughts out of your (brilliant) brain and share them with the world”. Not only did he validate my opinions and perspective, he reminded me not to keep the ideas to myself. That made me smile and helped me understand that I need to share my thoughts more. I have something of value that people want to hear. All in all, Bruce’s compliment helped with my confidence, a positive change in my behavior, and a more focused effort to do my best to communicate what’s on my mind. Further, the more I share my observations, the more likely I am to show the world the truest version of myself. And that leads to new and more meaningful relationships that are truly authentic because I’m vulnerable I share what’s on my mind and that shows others they can be real with me. Yay – authentic conversations. Boo – small talk.

Do you have an example of a compliment that you’ve received that’s the best compliment ever? Is there something someone said to you that really empowered you; one that changed the way you think and act? 

If so, be sure you tell this person how much their feedback has meant to you or how it shaped you (if you can).

I’d also love to hear about any situations in which you gave or received a compliment that changed someone’s life.

Featured image courtesy of Pexels

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Katie Helgesen

Katie Helgesen is the Senior Director of Business Intelligence at Dealer Inspire, a fast-growing and award winning technology company near Chicago. Katie and her husband, Todd, have 4 awesome kids and love living in a small community centered on a lake in northwest Indiana. Baseball, t-ball, and soccer schedules are just a few pieces of Katie’s Mom Hustle. Her daydreams revolve around finding more “me time” and traveling. In real life, Katie keeps herself sane with naps, Netflix and eating out as often as she can.

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