One Week of Compliments: My Social Experiment

A compliment is a powerful thing, for both the giver and the receiver.

I began pondering this not long ago, during our summer vacation. On one day in particular, two separate compliments (one given, one received) boosted my already relaxed, “it’s all good”, vacation-mode kind of mood to a new plateau. They were the gold-star, finishing touches to my already pleasant day. I hope they has the same effect on those around me.

A couple sharing the pool with us and our little ones told us that we had “a wonderful, wonderful family.” The gentleman also added, “don’t worry he’ll figure out the back float soon enough.” This couple had been watching me try to teach my 6-year old how to float on his back for about fifteen minutes, while my 4-year old proudly jumped into the shallow end, over and over. They saw my son’s patience erode, and eventually we abandoned the floating lesson in favor of cannon balls into the deep-end.

As a parent, these types of compliments make you glow. Of course, we got lucky. This couple caught a snapshot of our family when our kids were NOT whining, crying, grabbing each others’ toys, or tripping each other as they jumped into the pool. It was one of those lazy summer afternoons full of laughs, giggles, and playful banter. Norman Rockwell, himself, would have been impressed. (However, a few hours earlier they would have witnessed our four-year-old’s power tantrum. It was one for the record books!)

That couple’s kind words made me glow, and that glow lasted for hours. Later that evening, after allowing some friends to adopt our little cherubs for the night, my husband and I went out for a lovely dinner at The Mews in Provincetown. I have to give a shout-out to this little place. The food is tasty; the Cosmos are strong and sweet; the atmosphere is vibrant, and the service is terrific.

We only visit this place once or twice a year. On this visit, we were lucky enough to have the same waiter we did last year. We think he is excellent. He has a charming personality. He always gives us just enough time to look at the menu without feeling abandoned, and then offers great suggestions to suit our palate. He gives just as much attention to our cocktails. To top off our evening, he gave me a complimentary dose of a chocolate whipped cream vodka to complement our black-bottom chocolate torte. Ooh La La!

We loved him, and after dinner, we made sure we told him so. Certainly waiters and waitresses work for tips. To me, it’s a no-brainer that you tip an excellent server well. However, I hope that telling him how much we appreciated his top-notch service might also have offset any negative energy he might have encountered from various complainers that evening. (Every restaurant has them.) Unfortunately, I did not get his name. I think it might be Neal, and if you ever find yourself at The Mews, I hope you land at his table!

When we left after dinner, and I was smiling. It was a wonderful end to a terrific day. As I thought about how a small compliment from an anonymous fellow traveler lifted my already good mood, and how it likely predisposed me to extend that compliment to our server at dinner. As I reflected on the smile on his face when we told him that he is one of the best servers we’ve had, I resolved to be more free with my compliments.

I am not one to give out empty compliments, however. I simply don’t perform well when extending a compliment for protocol’s sake alone. That being said, I should not forget to pay compliments when they are due. After all:

  1. They cost me nothing.
  2. They foster the “Pay-It-Forward” philosophy that promotes gracious, considerate and well-mannered behavior all around us.
  3. At work, they go a long way toward improving productivity and morale.
  4. They create smiles for the giver and receiver, and smiles are good for you! They lower blood pressure, boost your immune system, make you look younger, and release endorphins that make you feel good..
  5. So, lest I forget the power of a compliment I have devised a social experiment to compel me to remember. My personal project for the next week will be to pay at least one unsolicited compliment to someone around me each day. I plan to try to measure it’s impact on me, and if possible, to the recipient. Next week, I’ll report my results.Wish me luck!

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