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A little advice on compliments

Yesterday was National Compliment Day. In that spirit, here are a few suggestions when it comes to compliments:
If you think of something kind to say, tell that person right then.

Otherwise, you risk forgetting.

Or getting hit by a bus.

Or the person deserving of the compliment getting hit by a bus.

Don’t delay. Say it right away. We all need more kindness and positivity in our lives, and it shouldn’t be saved for the person’s funeral.

Better yet, put that compliment in writing. Create a permanent reminder of your act of kindness that the recipient can save and refer to again and again. If the compliment pertains to something they have done well at work, make a copy of the letter and forward it to the person’s boss or supervisor or overlord.

We don’t get recognized nearly enough at work for the things we do. When a colleague sees our excellence and shares it with management, it can mean a great deal to the person involved.

Also, may I suggest that you avoid compliments related to a person’s physical appearance and instead focus on what the person says and does?

The world is far too image-conscious and appearance-obsessed already, and these demands for beauty lean heavily, unfairly, and oftentimes disastrously on women. The focus on beauty causes so many problems and so much pain to people, both young and old.

Social media has only compounded this problem exponentially and brought so much anxiety and sadness to so many people.

Why contribute to the already fraught and disastrous culture of beauty by complimenting someone’s hair or shoes or recent weight loss? These are fleeting, ultimately meaningless words that reinforce the idea that when you and the person who you’ve complimented are together, you are first assessing their physical appearance for worthiness.

To hell with that.

For more than five years, I have restricted my comments on physical appearance – both positive and negative – to my wife, my children, and my mother-in-law. In little time, it became easy and almost automatic to avoid compliments and even comments about physical appearance altogether. I’ve shared this rule before, both online and in real life, and a surprising number of people have adopted this policy as well, including many of my students, who now consider this idea both important and necessary.

More than anyone, young people don’t want to be worrying about what others think about how they look, particularly as they go through the challenges of puberty.

Just yesterday, I commented on a cartoon character in a slide that I was presenting to the class. “Why is her hair so odd?” I said, thinking it odd for the artist to draw everyone in the slide photo-realistically except for this one character.

One of my students angrily responded, “Because she can wear her hair however she wants!”

She was right. It has never occurred to me that I should refrain from commenting on the appearance of cartoon characters, too, or at least restricting my comments to an artist’s decisions and not the character themselves.

But I should. She was right.

My response to my student:

I wrote her a letter thanking her for the reminder and complimenting her on her wisdom.

Then I dropped it in the mail. It should arrive at her home in a day or two.

Not only do I like to create permanent reminders of compliments, but whenever possible, I like to make their arrival special, too, by sending via the postal service or, in the case of Elysha, propping a card on the dashboard, stuffing it into her coat pocket, tucking it under her pillow, or mailing it to her school.

Yesterday letters arrived at the house for my children, sent by me, telling them how proud I am of each of them.

It was serendipitous that the cards arrived on National Compliment Day, but that wasn’t why I sent them.

I send them often.

The world needs more kindness and positivity, and it doesn’t take much to do your part.