What Will You Do with the Compliments You Hear?

When I was in college, my roommate Lisa shared an encouragement technique with me. She said that she and her high-school best friend made a pact that if one of them ever heard someone say something nice about the other one, they’d tell the other one what they’d heard.

As I recall, they’d talked about how a lot of people say a lot of nice things about others that never get back to the person who would most benefit from this kind of encouragement. Thus, they created the pact.

I surely could have applied that technique a lot more often than I actually did – I’m guilty of “good intentions that I didn’t act on” and all that. But I do remember one time when the suggestion came to mind. 

Years ago, I was working in an office, and we were being trained on how to use a new high-tech copy machine. As you may recall, in the era before the digital revolution, data was distributed through reams of copy paper. So, we were getting trained on how to use the equipment.

One of my friends/colleagues did not particularly care for the sales rep who was our copy machine instructor. They’d had some interactions that my friend found frustrating, and she had expressed those frustrations to me.

This friend was not present during the particular training session I was in, which I had probably entered with a “they’re making me do this” sentiment. I was not highly engaged in the training. But I perked up when the trainer said something quite interesting. She was trying to refer to my friend but couldn’t remember her name. Instead, she described her as “the girl wearing the white blouse with the real pretty face.”

Well. I knew then, this description was going to get back to that girl with the real pretty face. Because I was taking it to her. It was as if, all of a sudden, I had a mission, and I couldn’t wait to see if she’d feel differently about the sales rep.

So, later that day, I found my friend and told her how she’d been described. She listened without comment.

“Do you like her now?” I asked.

“I like her a lot better,” she said, nodding. You can imagine how a guard was let down.  

We have adversarial relationships in our midst. There’s conflict among us. Fears. Resentments. Misunderstandings. Yet a shared compliment doesn’t cost a thing, and, who knows, it could be an easy-to-apply patch between people.

It won’t erase trouble or circumvent frustration. I mean, it’s not like traffic reports are ever going to say “The driver behind you really liked how you changed lanes.” That’s not in our control. But this is: share the compliments and help people see their stories a little bit differently.

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 3, Issue 7