Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What IS That Smell?!

Day 9: Hand out five compliments

What’s on your mind?

Dropped some stuff off at Goodwill. Saw the cutest little purple sparkly scooter with the fringe-y things hanging from the handlebars. Looked down at the base.....Tinkerbell, with the words "Quest for Pixie Dust".....thought about jumping on!!

What is it with compliments? Such power for such small effort and yet we just don’t pass them out often enough. Sure, we think them, albeit in a twisted sort of way. God I wish I had her hair. I’ll never have those legs. Look at how guys just drool like that when she walks by. Jealous, so jealous. But we never actually go up to her and say I so love your hair, it’s wild and wonderful and just insanely fun. It’s such a great look on you. And, yet, those few words have the power to totally change her day, to change her outlook for at least the next few hours, to change the thoughts she has about herself, about her life, about those around her. Maybe she was having a crappy morning. Maybe her boyfriend just ditched her. Maybe you just lifted her out of a major funk. You’ll never know because you didn’t actually say anything. You just fantasized about having her hair on your head. Then you walked on by.

One huge lesson in compliments before we continue: always compliment the person rather than the item or article of clothing. I might be wearing a really cool shirt with lots of funky artsy stuff going on, and you might suggest to me that it’s a very cool shirt indeed. But I can take that shirt off and throw it on the floor. It’s still a cool shirt, but what about ME?

I never really met anybody who doesn’t like to receive a compliment. Maybe that person exists, but I don’t her. Compliments uplift, empower, move, motivate, encourage, inspire. They leave you with a secret inner smile, first because somebody actually noticed you and, second, because you are not as fat, ugly, inept, fill in the blank, as you have led yourself to believe you are. I’m normally pretty good on the giving end, but only for very obvious actions or looks. My goal today is to reward the ordinary, the everyday effort that often goes unnoticed, the friendly greeting, the quick and courteous service. Should someone always have to go above and beyond before they are shown some form of appreciation? Isn’t it enough just to be one’s usual great self?

And why bother?

Compliments encourage more of the behavior we’d like to see. They are operant conditioning at its best. Customer to clerk: You have such a beautiful smile. Clerk to self: Wow. I have a great smile? I have a great smile. The clerk goes about the rest of her day uplifted and empowered, greeting customers with her absolutely gorgeous smile. Not to be fake about it. No use praising something that isn’t there. What’s the point? You’re rewarding nothing. Nothing rewarded gets more of that nothing. But if something is definitely there that that others might benefit from seeing more of, then by all means praise away. I do believe we each have some special something inside of us. Sometimes we just forget to look for it. Sometimes we are just too focused on what is wrong with the world, what is going on in our own days, or what is happening two hours from now to see the unique beauty of the person in front of us.

Compliments are like superheroes.

They have the power to transform dull, gray, rainy days into blue skies and sunshine, sort of the opposite of that Charlie Brown character who went around with the nasty rain cloud over his head. The recipient of kind words continues on with a rainbow and rays of sunshine hovering above while the rest of the world is darkness. I am in my local coffee shop yet again and am fumbling to pull out my chair. My arms are stuffed with computer and latte and lunch and purse and sweater and such. I am glad to be here among other like-minded souls on this dreary November day. My kitchen table was just not the inspiration I was hoping. Sure, it was calm and quiet and warm and wonderful, but a little too much yin, not enough yang. I needed bustling and busy and active and vibrant. I needed people and noise and a bit of caffeine. So here I am settling into my favorite spot by the window while I think in my head about all the wonderful words I will write or about all the wonderful words I would like to write but about all the hair-pulling and brain-racking that will likely occur instead. The older gentleman with the Forbes and the frappuccino at the next table looks up suddenly in a disoriented sort of way as if he is uncertain where he is and trying to catch his breath all at the same time. Whoa, he says, You smell GOOD! Four words with a smile. Well. Anyone interested in asking me any incredibly personal information or anyone in need of approaching me with huge, unreasonable requests feel free to step forward. Today only, all wishes will be considered, all questions answered. Consequences be damned. I don’t care. I smell good.

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