A long time ago, I learned that a simple, honest, heartfelt compliment can brighten someone’s day – even if that someone is a complete stranger. I started complimenting people I would interact with, even if the interaction was very brief, and the joy it brought me and the tiny connection it brought us was amazing.
Sometimes, it can be life-changing.
I had just realized my gayitude and was having a very late dinner in Dennys with a friend. A hot punk girl was sitting behind us, where I could see her but my friend couldn’t. After a while, the girl got up and went to the bathroom. When she returned, I hissed “Did you see her?!” at my friend.
The girl heard me. She stopped at our table, aggressive and angry. Hands on hips, she was shouting at me: “What’s your problem? Why are you talking about me and staring at me? You got a problem?”
I blushed crimson and whispered, “Actually, I think you’re very beautiful.”
She stopped cold, tears welling up in her eyes. “What?”
I repeated myself. We started talking, I invited her to sit with us. She poured her heart out to us; her father was being cruel to her, her boyfriend just dumped her, her best friend was ignoring her, she was considering running away, she felt lonely and invisible to everyone. She spent two hours or more at our table, sitting beside me, talking. She bought me a hot fudge sundae.
She left that night smiling, with a bounce in her step.
Her name was Jamie.
Sometimes, it’s cathartic.
“I love your earrings!” I said to the clerk at the grocery store.
She, as everyone does, reached up and touched them. “Thank you. My grandmother gave me these, right before she died.”
I’d just lost my grandmother, too, so we struck up a conversation about grandmothers. Hers had been cold and unfriendly until six months ago, when she’d gotten very sick. “It seemed like, knowing she was going to die, she needed to be nice to me or something,” the girl said. “After she died, she left me all her jewelry – which my mom said was a sign that she really loved me.” She struggled to keep her tears hidden.
She thanked me for listening before offering a sweet smile at the end of my transaction, and said she felt much better.
Her name was Kathy.
Sometimes, it helps in odd ways.
“Your glasses are really cool!” I said to the cashier.
She looked astonished. “Really?”
“Yeah, I love them.”
She touched them. “I just got them, but I’m not sure I like them. They’re different from my last ones.”
“They bring out your eyes and go well with the shape of your face… which is kind of an odd thing for me to say to a stranger, but there you have it.”
She giggled. “No, it’s great. Thanks! I guess I’ll give them a try for a while. I appreciate that!”
Her name was Mary.
Sometimes, it’s trivial.
“I like your shirt!”
“Oh! Thank you. I got it a few days ago – this is it’s debut appearance.” We both giggled, and I moved on.
Her name was Jessica.
Sometimes it goes mostly unnoticed.
“I like your earrings!”
She flashed a very brief smile. “Thanks. Did you find everything you needed today?”
Her name was Sue.
This is a constant for me. In nearly every interaction I have, I offer a compliment. Sometimes it takes me a few moments to find something to compliment, but I have yet to try and fail.
The rules are simple. Be honest. Mean what you say. Say it from the heart.
I’ve complimented all sorts of things, from clothing to jewelry to glasses, hair and eyes – once, I complimented a guy’s beard (it had little beads braided into it), and I complimented a girl’s announcer-voice when she paged someone for help.
Most of the time, these are short and pleasant little interactions that give me a moment of connection with people I’d otherwise never know. Sometimes, it’s important and life-changing, and sometimes it’s trivial. Often, it makes someone giggle or smile, brightens their day, makes them feel good, even if it’s for just a few minutes. I get eye contact from someone who would otherwise spend the entire transaction looking anywhere but at me, and I love eye contact.
It’s always positive – even those times it goes mostly unnoticed, it feels good to at least make the attempt.
I recommend it! Try complimenting people, honestly and from the heart, for a week. Clerks, cashiers, waitresses and waiters, whomever you come into brief contact with. It fosters a little connection, and more connection helps us all.