"It's a Marshalls special," I counter with a grin.
Subtext: I didn't spend a lot of money on it.
"You look great," says a friend, noticing I've lost 10 pounds.
"I've been plagued with headaches all summer," I reply.
Subtext: I'm ignoring your compliment, acting as if you said, "How are you?"
This is how I handle praise - by downgrading or deflecting it - and I never even thought about it until I read "Find Something Nice to Say - The Power of Compliments," by Debby Hoffman and Kathy Chamberlin. To accept compliments graciously, it turns out, all I need to do is say, "Thank you," and refrain from saying anything negative.
I can do that.
Giving compliments, however, is a bit tougher. Their scarcity in the world is a sign tht few of us are lavish in handing them out. So many families, so many relationships, and so many workplaces are governed by the rule: You'll hear from me if something goes wrong. Otherwise, assume you're doing fine. And all the while, most of us hunger for approval, for a sign that all our hard work and effort is appreciated by those whose opinions matter most to us.
I'm as guility of withholding compliments as anyone, a legacy from my childhood. My mother seemed afraid I'd get "too big for my britches," as she put it, if she heaped praise upon me. My dad, I think, felt that withholding praise had the same effect as waving a carrot at a donkey. It kept his kids striving for something that would always be beyond their reach. Having grown up on the helpless side of that equation, I like the power I gained over the people I loved by making my praise a scarce commodity. When I decided to break with my past and beocme more approving, the habit of silence was hard to break.
That's why I like this book's approach.
In "Finding Something Nice to Say," the authors focus first on what giving a compliment does for the giver. Few of us are aware that saying kind words to others creates a wave of positive energy, not only in the person who hears them, but in the person who says them. "Each time you give a compliment, you are forced to focus on the other person. You look for positive attributes and specific examples. ... This positive focus changes the way you look at the world and, more importantly, your thought porcesses. You see the possiblities, not the obstacles. Compliment giving is a jump start for looking at the world in a positive way, refreshing, stimulating, creative way."
You begin by creating positive energy in yourself. next thing you know, having made someone aware that you truly see and value something about them, you find yourself the recipient of their positive energy. Even if they brush the compliment aside, you know you've given them something they can recall later and examine at leisure. In almost every case, the next time you meet, the person you complimented will feel a greater connection to you and smile a bit more readily.
How many really terrific inteactions do we have in a day? Too few, right? It's amazing to think we can create as many as we like by simply giving voice to a sincre compliment or two.
The kind of compliment you give, however, makes a difference.
The harder you search for qualities worthy of recognition - such as kindness, generosity, humor, honesty, idealism, integrity, you name it - the more insight you gain into the people you know. As you seek to identify what's important, your priorities become more conscious. You begin to see positive facets of even those who initially fail to excite your admiration. And eventually, the authors perdict, you will begin to recognize and appreciate some of those valued qualities in yourself.
The Buddhists speak of four devine abodes, each of which leads to greater happiness. The third, Mudita, is the home of sympathetic joy, a place where one is able to acknowledge and take altruistic delight in the talents and accomplishments of others with being distrubed by envy and jelousy. Taking pleasure in the good qualities of others is one step on the path to equanimity, loving kindness and compassion, the other three divine abodes.
That blessed path, I suspect, is paved with genuine compliments, generously given and graciously received. -- Linda Weltner, Boston Globe - Sept. 23, 1999
About the Author
Words are important to Kathy. As a professional speaker who talks about building stronger personal, business, and community relationships, she understands the impact words can have. They can raise you up or cut you down. They can empower or they can imprision. Kathy uses her words to teach and inspire.
Another powerful way to use words is storytelling. Storytellers have served many purposes throughout the centuries. They have been tellers of nes, historians, and entertainers. In her award winning storytelling style, Kathy has spoken throughout New England on serious subjects in a not so serious way. Most people learn best when abstract theories are connected to easy to understand stories. Fables have been classics for years.
Her relationship seminars cover a variety of topics such as: Creating a Positive Work Environment, Building a Stronger Relationship with your Customers through your Newsletter, Truly Empowering Your Employees, Parenting in Today's World, Romance-Adding Spice to Your Life, and How to Build Community.
Kathy has found that no matter what type of relationship you are trying to improve, the skills needed for a healthy relationship are very similar. Her seminars, workshops, and keynote speeches focus on simple skills and lessons which attendees can tailor to thier own needs, take home or to the workplace, and put to immediate use.
An award winning, international speaker, Debby Hoffman is the president of Positive Results Seminars, where she creates programs designed to help people attain success in their careers and happiness in their lives.
Her topics include Networking, Building Great Business Relationships, Presentations Transformations, and Creating Your Own Positive Results.
She has been an entrepreneur for over 21 years, with the development of an advertising specialty agency and numerous multi-level marketing companies. She has also been employed by a chamber of commerce as the membership manager, where she increased teh membership by almost 50% within two years. She is a columnist for It's About Business publication, as well as a guest columnist for several industry newsletters.
Although you may never believe it, Debby was once a shy, quiet, withdrawn person, who's life was on a constant collision course for desaster. Twelve years agao, Debby decided to take control and find a way to create her own happiness. The transformation has been remarkable. Debby tells her persoanl journey through stories of love, commitment, honesty, and courage, and practices what she "preaches" as she shares what she has come to know as the true secrets to a happy and successful live.
Debby is a member of the National Speakers Association, the New England Speakers Association, the Busniess and Professional Women Association of Concord, NH, and Toastmasters International.