Some people will hardly ever be cruel in their entire lifetime. A few will use cruelty a lot, as a tool. But I think we can all agree that only a sliver of any society would ever go so far as to say they’re actually in favour of cruelty–and most of those are politicians, not warriors. Likewise we all love the feeling of a genuine compliment—especially regarding something we feel particular proud of being good at. Usually things we worked really hard to master. So we can agree that no one wants to promote cruelty, but we can all agree that we would like to promote compliments. That sounds like an excellent place to start.
Okay are you ready? Here’s how this goes: when someone makes you really angry. Even really really angry—still, your limit is to be really mad, but you won’t dip down into cruelty. You’ll be mad at what they did, you will not exhibit cruelty toward that person. Actions are actions, people are people. No one wants more cruelty in the world so we each as individuals have to avoid encouraging or participating in it. Day by day, experience by experience, we develop a new habit.
What will make all of this easier is that we won’t just drop the cruelty and leave a gap that you can feel like some phantom limb. No, we fill your life with added awareness so you can watch people and situations to look for good reasons to give sincere compliments. Some people give lots of compliments every day and some never give any. But just think about this: let’s say each person in the US and Canada committed to giving just one sincere compliment a day. That’s it. Just one. In just those two places (but do it everywhere). One—I like your hat, or wow that is some nice guitar playing, or do you ever have a beautiful smile, or I want to thank you for your excellent work this month, or that’s the best service I’ve had in years! Just one. Just the US and Canada. That’s 350 million compliments a day or, put another way, that’s 131 billion compliments a year from two relatively small populations. That would absolutely make the world better. Can you imagine just listening to that? You would be hearing them all day!
Who’s in? It’s super simple. No cruelty—and if you read this blog you probably weren’t the cruel type anyway, so that might be surrendering one or a few chances every few years. And in return, if there’s 131 billion compliments being given out, in one year you’ll give out 365 compliments, but who knows how many you might receive? You might surprise yourself. But what I love about this is that compliments not only feel great to get, they also feel awesome to give. So no matter what happens, we’re all guaranteed one more happy moment per day—365 per year—than we had before.
Now remember, these duties include intervening in whatever practical—but not cowardly—way with any cruelty you witness as well. And also if someone is having a day so bad that they can’t give out their compliment, you give it out for them. Or maybe think about taking up a collection and get the sad person a dozen compliments. As long as they’re sincere they will be healing.
This is written with my tongue half way in my cheek, but seriously. Why would any of us invest our short lifetimes in bitching about how crappy the world is and then go from that conversation to the bank where we then ream out the teller-in-training for wasting our day, like we spend it curing diseases anyway? Everybody’s got to learn. Compassion. The same thing we would want. Today at the bank the poor kid—who’s served me twice and done a great job—was literally shaking by the time I got to him. When I was done I just said, “Hey Carter, I know you’re new here and so I see you’re double checking all your work. I appreciate you doing that while you get your legs under you. It’s very responsible. Just what I like in my bankers.”
Don’t be careless with your compliments. Place them carefully and strategically. Get used to watching people less for how they affect you and more for just how they are. And if someone’s down, then maybe the compliment would get twice as much mileage for them. Win-win. Don’t forget small children and oddly enough, those closest to us. Even save a few for yourself.
But seriously do this. Put up a post it note on your bathroom mirror with 31 numbers on it and give a compliment a day and cross one off for every day of the month. If you like it and want to give more compliments that’s awesome, but those are amatuer compliments. Only this one per day will count against your professional total. Don’t skip a day two years in a row and you are a Master Complimenter and you’re prepared to take on even the most promising apprentices.
All kidding aside, I’m seriously going to do this. And I seriously hope you not only join me, but I hope you all convince at least one other person to join you in this very rewarding endeavour. (If anyone sends in a list of their compliments I’ll post them in the comment section.) Maybe you’re at a university and you can get it going throughout your campus, or if you’re at a large company see if you can get it spread there. Or maybe your child can spearhead a plan to do this at their school. Just the few of us—and some of you are parents and you will be influencing your children—you will have an impact.
Today seems as good a day as any to start, so I will find a more personal one to give in a moment, but for now I will say that I think you’re an awesome person to want to participate in something that it would be so easy to dismiss and ridicule. It’s very much appreciated. Now let’s go change the world.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.