Complimenting someone is an as much of an art as is being the beneficiary of the compliments. I have much to learn with respect to both aspects.
My parents belong to the generation that does not believe in complimenting or praising the children. So the best we got while growing up was: Very good, keep it up. This included the report cards we got from school; even topping the class did not result in any flowery adjectives from the teacher (as opposed to report cards today, which must surely require a thesaurus :D), just an exhortation to keep whatever it was you were doing ‘up’.
I never thought of this explicitly till I made a friend who is pretty lavish with compliments. She notices every small thing and never fails to compliment the person. Even little children respond to her “Oh, I love your shoes, they’re so cute!” eagerly and with a welcoming smile. It has broken the ice on many an occasion. The thing is, she doesn’t just do lip service or use it as a ploy. She genuinely means the compliment and I guess that gets across.
When she began complimenting me on this or that, I gave it my signature response: a shrug accompanied by a nervous laugh. I am simply not used to receiving compliments, especially in person. But I began questioning my eternal doubt about myself. Sometimes, at a crucial moment, I remembered her compliment and that bolstered my confidence. Slowly I began to understand and appreciate the power of a compliment.
Nowadays, I have begun to say a simple, hearfelt “Thank you!” when someone compliments me, without protesting or going into denial. And I’ve stopped thinking twice about complimenting someone myself. I remember telling an older lady that I really liked the jewellery she was wearing, and she opened up to me, sharing anecdotes about the jewellery and her life in general. I love the way little children glow with happiness when I compliment them. I think it speaks volumes about the attention we pay to a person. I don’t hesitate (much) nowadays; paying a genuine compliment is a simple and effective way of spreading happiness.
I have much to thank my friend for, but one of them is surely for educating me on this whole compliments business. It’s such a lovely way to make someone’s day.