Compliment karma

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I’m rather loose when it comes to compliments. I sprinkle those babies like chocolate on my triple-shot cappuccino. It’s almost embarrassing how often I catch myself telling a complete stranger she looks hot in her boots or mentioning to a service person that his knowledge is a huge help. I love how a sincere compliment can tip my day from puce to golden, so I’ve made a habit of sharing it when I appreciate something. (Within reason – I wouldn’t write a compliment on a well-constructed exam question paper, for instance. OK I did once. But only because all the option (E)s were witty.)

The cool thing is, although I do it to put a little happy into someone else’s day, I usually get back a whole lot of happy for me. Often it’s a big smile and a thank you. Sometimes it’s more interesting.

Take today. There’s a woman at the gym who has no idea how gorgeous she is. She’s nearly fifty but has a nice figure, a beautiful face and a lovely, warm manner. She was wearing a deep blue jumper that made her face ‘sing’, and I told her so. Suddenly the shields went up. Alarmed, she explained that she hadn’t had a shower that morning, hadn’t combed her hair and sometimes didn’t even wash her hair before coming to the gym (I never do any of these things before the gym because, you know, IT’S THE GYM! You go there to sweat! Oh, but I do wear Juicy Tubes. In Groseille. 🙂 )

She must have thought I had mistaken these egregious grooming oversights for an attractive appearance, and was determined to save me from the misapprehension that she looked nice, what with her brazenly uncombed hair and all. Her tirade continued, presumably in the hope I would spot my error (Oh. It was your uncombed hair. And here I was thinking that blue suited you. What a dolt!) and retract my observation before it could penetrate. I had to interrupt and say ‘Just take the compliment!’ at which she stopped, inhaled the fact that someone thought she looked great in blue, and said ‘Thank you’. She had to make an effort, but she allowed the nice feeling in. She left smiling. And you know what? So did I.

There’ve been times when I’ve complimented a stranger on something they were wearing, or having a nice voice, or handling something smartly, and seen them absolutely glow in response. Seeing that is a lovely buzz.

Other times a compliment can get right under a person’s skin.

I was once toward the back of a long queue for the women’s restroom at a conference. I noticed a girl walk up and stand outside a separate, wheelchair-accessible restroom. When it became vacant she called up the long line so the next person on the queue could use the available cubicle. I commented to her that it was a cool thing to do, especially as no-one would have known if she’d popped in there herself. Her eyes filled with tears and she turned bright red. She whispered ‘Thanks for noticing’ and gave me the sweetest smile. I bet she’s someone who often does nice things that no one notices. This time, someone noticed and said so, and she felt pretty damn good.

As I waited on that queue, with scores of women tensing their pelvic floor muscles like it was an impromptu Pilates class, I felt pretty damn good too.

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