Giving and Getting Compliments

We live in a society where compliments have lost their edge. Ponder this for a minute: when was the last time someone gave you a genuine compliment and you thought about it all day?


Let’s take the reverse of that. When was the last time someone insulted you, or cut you off while driving, or didn’t hold a door open when your hands were full. Did you think about it all day?

Here’s the catch…we do receive compliments a lot. A friend may compliment your haircut. A coworker may compliment your shoes. We don’t think about and remember this. We focus on the negative. Our brains have become wired to only hear the negative.

Imagine this narrative. You and your girlfriend are out to dinner. Over the course of the meal you say:

“It’s awesome how much you helped me this week.”
“Your dinner last night was delicious, you’re a great cook.”
“It’s awesome how hard you worked out this week, you look great.”
“I wish you’d smile more when we’re out with friends.”
“I’m so proud you got that promotion at work!”
“I can’t wait to spend the weekend cuddling and watching movies – we’re gonna have so much fun.”

Which line do you think get’s remembered the rest of the night? Maybe even the rest of the weekend? I could analyze all the reasons we do this for a whole book. I’m sure other people have. Instead, I’d like to dive into solutions.

The way the brain works is fascinating. We dig pathways, like a mole, by thinking thoughts continuously. Over time, the pathways turn into trenches. We teeeeeeeend to do this with negative thoughts. “She thinks I’m fat, she thinks I’m fat, she thinks I’m fat. Does he think I’m fat? Am I fat? I’m fat. I bet I’m fat. She thinks I’m fat…” As these repeat we entrench our ideas like World War 1 soldiers.

Try doing this with positive thoughts instead. Don’t brush them off and accept them. Entrench them.

When someone pays you a compliment write it down. Immediately. Then email it to yourself. Remind yourself next time you go to the bathroom. Then remind yourself when you go grab some water. Then remind yourself when you get into your car. Then remind yourself when you get home. And when you get into bed.

Does this sound weird? It’s what you already do with negative thoughts. With negative words and actions. So it’s 100% do-able with positive as well. It may take a few days of practice. Give it a try. Be in control of your positive thoughts.

Give compliments to others whenever you have one running in your head. If you have a negative thought entrenched, do you think you’re more likely to compliment or insult others?