I read an incredible idea the other daily – that just as we will have to make an accounting for all the unpleasant things we said but shouldn't have, we will also have to make an accounting for all the kind things we should have said but didn't. Wow!
The obvious implication of this idea is that we have to be more zealous in looking for opportunities to praise others – our children, our friends' children (especially to our friends), our husbands, our friends' husbands (only to our friends!)
I think this idea could really be a life-changer. It could breed more connectedness and more community and undo some of the negativity that dominates our public – and sometimes private – discourse.
But there is another side to this notion. If we are running around giving our compliments, the other party must learn how to receive them, how to accept them in a kind and thoughtful way as opposed to a dismissive one. Wouldn't it be ironic if we hurt people, not through our intended cruelty, but through our unintended inability to receive a compliment with grace?
If someone gives us a compliment and we don't take it seriously, they feel diminished and you know who else feels diminished? We do. It is a totally self- destructive behavior.
So the next time a guest tells us how delicious the cake we just served is, the correct answer is not "It wasn’t a big deal; it's Duncan Hines." The appropriate response is simply, "Thank you."
The next time a friend compliments our dress, the correct response is not "I got it on sale" or "This old thing?" It's simply "Thank you."
If someone says I love your house and the Art Deco tiles in the bathroom the ideal answer is not "We bought at the peak of the market and the recession started the next day" (which is true) or "Those tiles are all cracked and impossible to replace" (which is also true). The correct answer, yet again, is just "Thank you."
It is not arrogant to accept a compliment graciously; it's actually considerate and thoughtful. We are not being humble when we dismiss a compliment; we are actually being hurtful and denigrating the giver.
So we have our work cut out for us. We need to look for opportunities to praise those we love, to notice what's unique and express our appreciation, to remark on what's kind and thoughtful and, if the shoe is on the other foot, we need to accept the accolades (large and small) with a smile and a thank you. (We could even add "very much" if we're really working on ourselves!)
These sound like small changes – and they are – and yet they could make all the difference in the world.