Giving the Precious Gift of Kind Words

My friend Melissa is one of the most generous people I know. She blesses the lives of many in a very special way. When the moment presents itself, Melissa never misses an opportunity to lavish sincere praise.

Not only does she express her kindness to others by issuing compliments, Melissa does so in a significant way.

The other day I was the recipient of one of Melissa’s bighearted gifts. She attended a presentation I gave at a business meeting. Not only did she absorb and remember the message I delivered, the next morning when I visited my Facebook page Melissa tagged me in a post.

Other friends might have sent me a quick private message telling me they enjoyed my presentation. Not Melissa. She wrote a lengthy paragraph of “shout out” praise to be viewed on social media. Her act of kindness was extremely generous and an example of how Melissa goes out of her way to lift up people making them feel special.

Generosity is the virtue of giving freely and abundantly. Sometimes we give time, in other instances money or material goods. People like Melissa find innovative ways to make the world a brighter place with carefully chosen words.

Khalil Gibran is quoted as saying, “Generosity is giving more than you can and taking less than your need.”

Wise words to live by and yet, conversely, we can all identify acquaintances, perhaps even family members, who either refrain, or rarely think to offer up an “atta girl” or extend encouragement. Often in my coaching practice I encounter individuals who talk about never receiving a compliment from a parent, sibling or their boss.

Denying a deserving person a word of praise is the opposite of being generous. In fact, withholding admiration on a consistent basis can even be a form of emotional punishment.

Not everyone is as highly skilled as Melissa in the art of a compliment. If you are holding back praising others because it feels awkward, or you fear doing it wrong, just practice. Start small.

Try telling your boss you like her dress (if you do). Next try focusing on characteristics and skills. Perhaps your coworker wrote a procedure streamlining a task and making your work-life easier. Applaud that action, verbally, in writing or at a staff meeting in front of the boss.

There is only one rule when passing out compliments. Be sincere. Coupling sincerity with generosity makes your compliment memorable.

Make a point of issuing gracious compliments this week. Gift others with words of praise. Remember it costs you nothing to be kind, but may mean everything to someone else.

Getting to Your Genuine Happy Place

Happy woman holding balloons and jumping in the air
Years ago when I first heard the expression, “fake it ‘til you make it,” I shuddered. Acting in a fake manner seemed so disingenuous. Somewhere down the line I must have experienced an “aha” moment finding some value in revisiting and applying a false front.

Perhaps it was the Dale Carnegie course I took decades ago. Prior to delivering a two-minute speech, a speaker was to stand at the back of the room and upon being introduced run up the isle clapping and acting enthusiastic. Let me repeat those key words: acting enthusiastic. Trust me, when I stood at the back of the room preparing to take the spotlight, I felt anything but enthusiastic. Terrified, mortified and horrified maybe, but far from excited about public speaking.
Scared woman portrait
After the 12-week course came to a close, I realized the Carnegie people had it right. Forcing yourself to smile, clap and jog your way to the front of the room did help in minimizing the jitters. Drawing yourself up, pulling your shoulders back and remembering to take a few deep breaths aids in conjuring up a smattering of self-confidence.

My older and wiser self still gives credence to the “fake it ‘til you make it” maxim, but I would temper that piece of wisdom by advising you can take the acting element only so far. Did you know many people can spot a fake smile? According to Psychology Today, a fake smile is evidenced by a contraction of the zygomatic major muscle. A genuine grin, dubbed a “Duchenne” smile, named after the French doctor Guillaume Duchenne, a student of the physiology of facial expressions, involves both voluntary and involuntary contractions from the zygomatic major and the orbicularis oculi. Think about that next time you plaster on your “say cheese” smirk when encountering your boastful bore of a brother-in-law, or any personality type you prefer to avoid.

What should you do when you’re not feeling the love? Examine your motivation. If you have to spend an afternoon with your bigheaded brother-in-law to appease your sister, own it. Chase away the negative emotions by acknowledging you are doing something nice for your sibling.

One last thought, zygomactic major and orbicularis oculi are difficult to pronounce and harder still to remember. The next time something arises making happiness a stretch, just focus on a pleasant thought like your next vacation, a great evening
Daughters Kissing their Mother on the Cheek
or a kiss from a loved one and smile, smile, smile. Your next smile might not be fake at all.