Friday, March 2, 2012

Fishing for Compliments

I'm the kind of gal who will jump over backwards (if I could) for a compliment, but I just don't seem to get enough of them, try as I might.  I've come to a few conclusions about how best to get what you need when it comes to seeking positive affirmation:

1.   Ask for it:

Tell your partner that you would appreciate hearing what they appreciate about you: when you're looking good, what you're doing well, etc.  A lot of times the people we live with (especially if they are men), don't realize how much it means to us to hear a simple, "I love it when you wear that blouse," or "Did I tell you how good you smell?"  (Actually, nobody, in my recollection, has ever uttered that phrase to me.)

If we're specific in letting people know what we'd like to hear, we're more likely to get it.  It's also a good idea to ask your partner to refrain from saying the things you don't want to hear.  The only time I want to hear something about my appearance that is not a compliment would be, "You've got something caught between your teeth; you might want to take care of that," or "Your skirt is caught in your underwear," or "I think your boob just popped out of your blouse, Hun."  (Unless, of course, you're in a private place where that might be appreciated.)

It's also okay to tell you boss that you would really appreciate some positive feedback on a regular basis.  Many bosses, especially men, (Sorry for the pattern here, men.  Correct me if you beg to differ.) don't spoon out the compliments like caramel on a sundae.  It's not usually because they're not thinking how great you're doing; it's just that they may be so busy managing the day-to-day affairs of their job, that they don't take the time to realize how well you are doing at  yours.  Alternatively, they don't know how important it is to you.  Tell them!  I do much better work when people are praising me for my efforts.  I'm open to constructive criticism, too, but I think compliments need to outweigh recommendations by at least 10 to 1 if you are an effective, valued employee.  I think part of the job description of a boss should be that a segment of each day be devoted to issuing positive feedback to his/her employees.

Note: I am not a boss, nor do I plan to be one, but I think high job satisfaction can be directly correlated to the positive feedback you get from your higher-ups.  If you feel certain you are doing a good job, let your boss know that you'd really like to hear about the times when he/she notices you are doing well and what you are specifically doing well.  You can also let him/her know that you respond well to gifts of chocolate.

2. Give it to others:

There are a ton of times every day that I think something wonderful about a person, yet I seldom say it. Either I am right in the middle of something, my brain is swirling with other details or I just feel too shy; but being a generous dispenser of compliments (that are sincere and specific) is one of the best ways to make people feel valued, to feel good yourself, and to establish positive relationships.

The next time you notice a colleague doing a particularly good job, you admire someone's newly washed hair or you are impressed with your partner's combination of clothing, let them know.  Don't say, "Oh, you finally washed your hair" or "It's about time you tucked your shirt in," but, "Gee, your hair smells terrific (Where did that shampoo ever go, btw?  That was the best name ever...),"or "Honey, you look so sexy in that flannel shirt tucked into those Levis.  I could just eat you up!"(That would be to your partner, not your work-colleague.)

I had a hugely popular friend in university who seemed to start all of her conversations with a compliment.  It was amazing to watch her.  She was an artist.  I think she may have been the first person who ever told me how blue my eyes looked when I wore navy or lavender and I've been wearing those colors almost every day ever since.  It's a beautiful habit to get into that could endear people to you and have your phone ringing more often with invitations (if that's what you want).

Again: the big rule here is to be sincere.  Throwing around compliments willy-nilly will make you appear superficial and could make people wonder what you want from them.  Try it out on the people you love first and see how it goes.  It's a practiced art.  Are there people you associate with that you really like and enjoy being around?  Chances are, they're pretty good at dispensing the compliments as well as being pretty good listeners.  Those are pretty big keys to effective communication.

3. Give it to yourself:

When you are complimenting yourself, you don't even need to be sincere and mean it: just do it!  This is a case of "act as if."  If you're feeling lousy when you look in the mirror, hone in on one thing (without the aid of a magnifying mirror) and let yourself know it's fabulous.  My most common morning compliment to myself is, "Gee, Leah, you hair looks great when it's disheveled."  Honestly, it DOES seem to look better that way than when it's combed and coiffed.  I'm lucky that way.  Or I'm deluding myself.  It doesn't matter.

So many of us are excellent at self-criticism and if you could catalogue the number of times in a day that you think something negative about yourself, you might be surprised that it's as long as a book.  It seems many of us have been programmed to insult/judge/guilt ourselves into thinking that we are less than perfect.  Of course, we are less than perfect.  But we are perfectly ourselves.  We're doing our best.  

Start by noticing every time you think something negative about yourself and shut yourself down.  Immediately.  Don't let another sentence accompany the first one.  "Leah you're so stupid.  How could you...?"" Shut it down!

Now replace it with something good.  "Hey, Leah, good you noticed that ...what could you learn from that?"  Then compliment yourself on your observation skills or something totally unrelated like, "Okay, so you forgot to do your homework, but look at how great your hair looks.  You're fabulous!"  (Then go do your homework, of course.)

See what I mean?  I'll stop rambling now.  I think you've got the point.

Today I am going to:

Say something positive to every single person I talk to, including clerks and service people.  (They don't get nearly enough positive feedback.)

Send out a few emails just to tell a few people how great I think they are and let them know specifically what I think is great about them.

Compliment myself effusively after I've performed my morning ablutions.

Let my sweetie know that I would like him to do the same!  (He likes it when I clean up!)

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