A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.
A compliment paid is money well spent.
Think about a time you were paid a compliment. It could be on your appearance, your intelligence, your wit, your skills, something you accomplished, or any number of other things. The specifics of what it is probably didn’t matter that much. What matters is that it is something you are responsible for and that someone else has noticed.
Now imagine the removal of any social obligations that come with it. You don’t need to downplay it by saying, “Oh this old thing?” You don’t need to complement them back. You just say thank you, you soak in the complement, and you bask in the fact that you’ve earned it.
How good did it feel? How good does it feel? Do you still remember it? How long has it been since that happened?
It made you feel good. But at times you’ve probably wanted a complement and not received it. And other times you’ve wondered why it has been so long since you got one. But the other side of the golden rule didn’t click in your head. You wondered when someone was going to complement you and didn’t pay it forward. It isn’t a one to one relationship, but it doesn’t need to be. You can be the one to make people happier, to brighten people’s days. And that in turn, at least for me, works just as well as a complement. I’ve seen people light up when I give them a genuine complement, and seeing that I’ve been able to help them out has made me feel better about myself and my day.
I went up to a street punk a while back. Cropped hair, died in a weird checkerboard pattern. She and her boy dressed up in black and smoking cigarettes sitting against the train station wall. These are the kids that adults point to as the failures of society. But her hair was brilliant and I wanted to let her know. So I did. And her response? “Oh, why thank you. I just did it last night. Well rather, my boyfriend did. And I did his.” And so on. They were friendly, open, polite, and appreciative. The appearance was a misnomer.
Most of my experience with this lesson, however, has come from the countless shows I have been seeing. For almost all of them I am going in based on a one sentence description and a hunch. And when a show is great – and around here that is pretty frequent – I make sure to let the musician know. After all, they are playing a free show to only a handful of people. They don’t have ticket sales to boost their ego. The crowd may contain friends and family. And they have gotten up and shared their creation with people like me who have no investment and no obligation to be kind. They have put themselves out there, and should be rewarded for it.
I’ve told Ali E how much I loved her shoegazer sound and use of loops, though she didn’t seem to know what to do with the complement and just wandered off. I’ve told Osh10 how much her combination of a Washington DC video montage with the line, “This place is not my home,” hit me and what it meant. She and I have gone to a couple shows since and kept up. I’ve told Mikelangelo that I came to his show for the Amanda Palmer guest spot but was blown away by the suave confidence and cowboy surf guitars. He seemed genuinely happy to hear it and recognized me on a tram a few days later.
And then there is the Amanda Palmer angle. I spoke with her briefly at MONA FOMA. And I explained her importance in my life on Valentine’s Day, to which she responded with a kiss. And then I wrote the blog on her, which I tweeted her way. It wasn’t a complement per se, but a frequently complementary analysis. She read it! She loved it!! And she retweeted it to her followers saying, “this is a fucking beautiful blog. thank you.” !!! And from that has come a wealth of joy. My blog had more readers in that day than on every prior day combined. (That is what happens when your link goes out to some 600,000 people.) I received several comments of feedback and compliments. People I don’t know have subscribed to the blog, which is moving me in the direction of my ideal goal. I got a handful of new followers on twitter. And one of those I’ve now met, had drinks with, and have possible plans to travel with.
All of this has come about from compliments. They are a renewable source. They are net positive. They engender good feelings and happiness. And they help to shape the world as you want to see it.
I’m going to close this on a request of a favor. Try it in the next day. Even to just one person. For whatever reason. Complement someone you love. Complement a friend or co-worker. Or challenge yourself a little and complement a complete stranger. But try it, and just watch the reaction. It may help you to make it a habit.