Today, I’d like to talk to you on the lost art of saying thanks. Here’s a story that I read just recently.
There was this kid that was fat, short and awkward with no natural talent. But he loved basketball and tried really hard every day until he finally made the team. One day the coach took him aside and told him:
“Mark, there are plenty of other guys on the team that have way more natural athletic ability than you. You’re not a naturally athletic guy, but what you lacked in talent, you made up for with hustle and heart.”
That conversation impacted the rest of my life. It crystallized something I had hoped was true into something I began to really believe about my character. Since then, when I’ve faced challenges where I don’t feel as up to the task as others, I can hear my coach telling me that I have heart, and it helps me to push on.
Such is the power of a compliment.
Unfortunately, even though compliments are a powerful force for positive good for both the giver and receiver, most people are pretty stingy with them. Let’s change that and start lifting each other up more often with encouraging words. Here’s why you should offer more compliments, and how to do it.
Compliments encourage others who are struggling. Studies have shown that when it comes to helping someone reach their goal, positive feedback is most effective for novices. Experts are primarily concerned about evaluating their rate of progress, and negative feedback helps motivate them to want to go further and faster. Beginners, on the other hand, are most concerned with simply evaluating their commitment (can I do this?) and they interpret compliments as signs that they’re on the right track and will be able to stick with it.
A compliment can truly be all that stands between someone being successful and giving up. Stand in that gap and offer an encouraging word.
Compliments help children learn new tasks. Given the point above, this makes sense; after all, kids are novices at everything. Researchers argue that positive feedback is also more effective than the negative variety in teaching kids new tasks and behaviors, because it’s simpler than negative feedback; the latter involves the more complex task of learning from mistakes.
For this reason, “Catch ‘em doing something good” is one of my parenting mottos.
Compliments strengthen (and soften) relationships. Compliments convey respect. Relationships are built on respect. Simple.
Compliments can also serve to melt the ice between you and an antagonist. As we’ll discuss below, offering a compliment requires a bit of humility, and it also tells the receiver that even if you don’t like anything else about them, you can at least admit to admiring that one quality. That tiny opening can often thaw the freeze into, if not bosom-buddy-hood, then at least a working relationship.
Compliments charm others and increase our circle of influence. People like surrounding themselves with those who make them feel good, and nothing makes a person feel better about themselves than a thoughtful compliment. If you want to make new friends or increase your influence among co-workers and colleagues, make an effort to “catch them doing something good” (it works for everybody!) and then complimenting them on it.
Compliments help you be less cynical. In the wise words of William George Jordan, “We pay too much tribute to a few human insects when we let their wrong-doing paralyze our faith in humanity. It is a lie of the cynics that says ‘all men are ungrateful,’ a companion lie to ‘all men have their price.’ We must trust humanity if we would get good from humanity. He who thinks all mankind is vile is a pessimist who mistakes his introspection for observation; he looks into his own heart and thinks he sees the world.”
The fact is though, humans have a tendency to concentrate on the negative. When you start looking for reasons to offer compliments, you increase the sensitivity of your antennae for picking up on good stuff – the positive, admirable things that people do every day.
So Worthy Sirs, as I stand on the edge of my tenure as Faithful Navigator for this much storied Assembly, I would like to say that the members here, all of you who faithfully attend my boring meetings, are a great bunch of guys and frankly, what you guys lacked in talent, you made up for it with heart and hustle and showed up for nearly every meeting to support both me, the Assembly and the order. Vivat Jesus