It is so easy to be critical of others—a mistake that I have made often in my life when my tongue gets ahead of my brain. Yet, I know that each of us is more likely to be persuaded and respond to a compliment as opposed to a criticism. So, when you see someone making a real effort to improve themselves in any way, acknowledge their progress and tell them to keep it going.
This past weekend was National Compliment Day in the US. Yes, we should all take more time and make more effort to look for opportunities to give genuine compliments to those we encounter. One of my favorite quotes is a reminder that “Not every day is good; but there is something good in every day.” The challenge is to find that good, and, as far as possible, BE the good in the day of others whom you encounter.
Being that ‘good’ in another’s day is often a matter of a genuine compliment made to the other person. Philosophically, giving off such compliments is a way of expressing our gratitude for the people we encounter in our lives. Humans are, after all, social animals. Each of us is highly dependent upon others—immediate and extended family members, friends, and those in our wider communities. Just think of the food you find on your plate every night and contemplate the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who planted it, harvested it, cleaned and processed, transported, packaged and prepared it not to mention those who built the roads, provided the transport and made the laws that make possible a global food distribution system. In our increasingly interdependent and connected world, what happens elsewhere will have an impact that is felt around the world and far away.
We should be mindful that even small kindnesses can make a difference. As Albert Schweitzer reminds us, “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”
The role of compliments and kindness begins in the family as children construct their very identity and develop their sense of values as they are influenced by the positive reinforcement they receive from their parents.
Educationally, a kindness can be a powerful learning tool and a positive learning environment can make a huge difference in how effectively students learn. Teachers need to remember that each day at school is charged with meaning and significance that can shape a student’s lifelong attitude toward learning and thus their chances in life. Parents hope that their sons and daughters of all ages will be treated with kindness, sensitivity and care; that their teachers will motivate them to learn and inspire them with a love of learning and commitment to making the world a better place.
Students will rise to the level of what is expected of them. Students should rightfully expect that their teachers will themselves lead by example and help students to understand why what they are learning is important and ensure that it is relevant. Parents will expect teachers to stay positive and not give up on a single child. Teachers should work in partnership with parents to help students develop intrinsic motivations to make learning, self-management, and personal and professional development a lifelong commitment.
Workplaces, too, should seek to be dedicated to creating climates in which personal, professional, and organisational growth are all packaged together in order to achieve the triple win. Such environments encourage people to grow through their strengths and build upon them. Again, positive reinforcement is the key. ` As English poet, John Masefield, wrote: `Few people praise enough: all ought to praise when they see something that can be praised. Once in a century a man may be ruined or made insufferable by praise. But surely once a minute something generous dies for want of it.”
As adults, positive reinforcement should also be part of our own self-talk and affirmation. As American author and journalist, Anna Quindlen, noted: “I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me.”
In the political world, politicians could and should lift their game and seek first to understand and look to understand and compliment others where they can, as opposed to always vilifying the other side and attributing to them the worst of intentions.
In the end, making the decision to be open to seeing and sensing the many good things around you is a choice. That choice and the important difference it makes was captured well by late poet Maya Angelou in this simple, but eloquent line: “This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.”