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.

Majoring in Happiness

It happened again last week. While volunteering at a conference, I met Coach Valerie Alexander selling her book, “Happiness …as a Second Language.” One glance at the cover and I was hooked. As I rummaged through my purse for cash, Valerie presented me with a bright lemon-yellow motivational wristband declaring, “Speak Happiness.”  I offered up my most gracious smile. In my book an inspirational band beats a gold bangle.

Full disclosure: I am a junkie, to be specific, a happiness junkie. Whenever I find myself near a book about happiness, I must take it home and add it to my library. Sure, I knowingly practice joy and bliss. On most days, that comes naturally.  But I delight in the study of happiness and aspire to one day earn an honorary degree in the subject.

As a life and career coach, it is sometimes my responsibility to guide clients back on the path to their happy zone.

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Let’s face it, life happens and when discord enters our lives like an unwanted guest, feelings of contentment vanish. Gloomy days turn into dark nights. Unless we make a concerted effort to get back to the light, depression sets in. Mood disorders gone unchecked can influence chronic health conditions. Consequently, happiness is strongly linked to good health thus the popular cliché, “laughter is the best medicine.”

In her book, Alexander writes about achieving permanent happiness. I’m not certain we can always achieve an everlasting buoyant frame of mind, but I do believe a solid understanding of happiness techniques help negate our blue moods.

So when stuck in reverse, what are some activities that pull us out of the doldrums? My first “go to” is to focus on finding one positive in a negative situation. Stay with it until you can find one.

Positive thinking

Next, shift to something that needs your attention. Glimmers of happiness return we when take our minds off our troubles by getting productive. As so aptly professed by the Dalai Lama, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”

The Dalai quote brings me to another strategy to blow away the blues. In a word, kindness. Did you know practicing daily acts of kindness generates a physical reaction?

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Your brain produces serotonin bringing a content, almost blissful feeling. A friend of mine refers to it as a “kindness kick.

When time permits, get on the move. Thrust those endorphins into gear by a solid workout. Or, immerse yourself in nature. Head out the door with a notepad or camera. Jot down or photograph any sign of surrounding beauty.

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Want an activity more energizing? Turn up the music and rock out with your favorite playlist.

This week invest some time into understanding how to create and cultivate a positive mindset. Get serious about the study of happiness. The happiest people on the planet are probably individuals who did homework on the subject.

Aesop and The Mitzvah

Inspirational message - You Make The Difference

Of course I know what a Bar Mitzvah is, but this week when a friend of mine told me a story of kindness and compassion I learned another meaning of a “mitzvah”. Kippy, who lived in Israel for years prior to returning to the United States, spoke about a particular Friday when her city was preparing for a festive Shabbat dinner. Inspired by mitzvah, (which literally means commandment) the word also takes on the meaning of a charitable or beneficial act; she began thinking about the volunteer army and the uninteresting rations they would have for dinner.

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If you ever met Kippy, it would not take long before you realized she is a doer and a giver who is also gifted with exceptional organizational skills. Armed with the knowledge that her community would soon be busy preparing the evening meal, she engaged each household in an impromptu project. Kippy asked each family to prepare an extra meal. All the plus-one meals would be delivered to the nearby troops. Kippy requested an additional action on the part of the donors. She instructed each household chef to include his or her phone number in the food gift.

Homemade potato pancakes

My friend understood it was a common practice to give anonymously, but something told her this act of kindness could translate to more than a Friday night dinner. She was right. Phones began ringing inside this small gated community. Soldiers surprised and delighted with the homemade feasts reached out to share a greeting and thank their donors. What began as a standard Friday evening turned into a circle of goodwill thanks to Kippy’s idea.

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I walked away thinking, just like one of the infamous Aesop’s Fables, Kippy’s story had a powerful moral to it. Although an anonymous kind deed is noble, sometimes we should be up close and personal with the recipient of our actions. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, author and Emanu-El Scholar, has been quoted as saying “I think the poor man wants to know who’s giving the gift, and the rich man wants to see the smile on the poor man’s face.”

Studies suggest that givers derive more benefits from the act of giving than from the benefits their gifts generate for others.

Give Concept Clipped Cards and Lights

So this week, borrow a page from Kippy’s book. Think about reaching out in person to help a friend, a stranger or a soldier. As Aesop taught in “The Loin and the Mouse,” “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”