I do not like to go shopping but very recently one day when I had gone I witnessed an incredible display of patience in a store. The check-out clerk had just been chewed out by an angry customer, clearly without a good cause. Rather than being reactive, this clerk defused the anger by remaining calm. When it was my turn to pay for my item I said to the check-out clerk, I am so impressed at the way you handled the customer.

She looked at me right in the eyes and said, Thank you, sir! Do you know you are the first person to ever give me a compliment in the store.

It really took less than two seconds to let her know; yet it was a highlight of her day and mine.

There are several reasons why I do not vocally let others know about my positive feelings towards them. The reasons are such as:

They do not need to hear me say that; they already know.

I do admire him (or her); however I am too embarrassed to say anything.

However, if I ask the would-be recipient if he or she would enjoy being given the genuine compliment and positive feedback, the answer ninety-nine times out of a hundred is, I love it!

Whether my reason for not giving genuine compliments, without any expectation of any return favor, on a regular basis is not knowing what to say, embarrassment, feeling that other people already know their strengths and do not need to be told, or simply not being in the habit of doing it, I think it is high time for me to change it.

Telling someone something I like, admire or appreciate about him/her is a random act of kindness. Once I get used to it, it takes almost no effort, yet it pays enormous dividends. A genuine compliment to a stranger also makes one feel good. Letting someone know how I feel about them also feels good to me the person who is offering the compliment. It is a gesture of loving kindness; and when my thoughts are geared in a positive direction, my feelings are peaceful.


Yes, this resonates with me, for just as l love to be complimented, isnt it equally important that I too should give compliments? And when I am in the frame of mind to truly observe others, it becomes apparent to me that there are innumerable occasions to compliment others all throughout the day.

Speaking for myself, I have to confess I am a little embarrassed to be complimented as I never think I have done anything worth remarking upon as I feel I am just acting in a normal way that I would want to act. I do love to compliment others, though, because I know many people have self-doubts and strive to do the best they can and often feel it is not good enough, so telling them yes, it is good enough, and I truly appreciate it, makes them validate themselves which I find to be very empowering both for them and for me too.

I was recently in New York City – Brooklyn to be exact – and I saw my sons partner, Seline, performing her tasks of mothering their new baby, my first grandchild, so beautifully, the compliments just poured out of me. And I know she appreciated it, as motherhood is one of the hardest jobs in the world because it is emotionally draining as well as physically and intellectually demanding, and, sadly, so few people think to comment on how amazingly mothers cope, their instinctive maternal love tested by tantrums, colic and endless chores. So I wanted Seline to feel truly appreciated and loved, for unless we ourselves feel loved and appreciated, it is so difficult to find the resources to continually love and tend a demanding and fretful baby, however much we adore the little tyrant!

Ultimately, giving compliments is a choice of how we want to live our lives, about who we want to be. When we operate from a center of generosity, then giving is a normal and intrinsic activity, an expression of who we are in essence. It defines us as human beings.

Shakespeare shows us this most cogently in Hamlet. Polonius spoke of the Players: My lord, I will use them according to their desert.

Hamlet answers, Gods bodkin, man, much better. Use every man after his desert, and who shall scape whipping. Use them after your own honor and dignity: the less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty. Take them in.

We all know that Hamlet was deeply flawed, yet he had a basic nobility that was part of his core nature, and essential to how he chose to operate in this world. Treating others according to our own nature is the equivalent of Christ saying, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.

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