This is Dr. Maureen Honey, which just so happens to be the perfect name for her, because she is one of the sweetest people you will ever have the fortune of knowing. She is the kind of person who brought cookies to class every day a paper was due, and had to leave quickly on the last day because of the tears of parting ways with a class she grew to love. You couldn’t help but feel the same way. And when you told Dr. Honey just want a difference she made in your life, and those of your classmates, you could tell that compliment meant the world to her, because all of who Dr. Honey is is present in the classroom, and with her students always. After completing an entire survey on the subject of compliments, she illustrates the perfect example of how to give a compliment with meaning.
There are a lot of different people in the world, and people who communicate in a lot of different ways. After learning about The Five Love Languages theory, I understood that just because a certain message is of value or resonates with you, that doesn’t mean the same is true for your intended recipient. Thus, the meaning behind what you are saying or doing is lost. I started to wonder if the same could be true for compliments? Just because I might enjoy public recognition or a compliment, it would mean much more to my co worker to tell her she did a job well done in a private one on one setting. Getting words of affirmation from my boyfriend about my ideas or writing might seem like a great compliment to me, but would he prefer a compliment on his work ethic or something entirely different? It seemed like there was some digging to be done.
Compliments are no small thing either. Out of the 37 people surveyed only two said they didn’t enjoy giving compliments, and only two different participants said they didn’t like to receive them. Clearly there is a majority of people who find meaning in both giving and receiving compliments. Based on the observations above, this means we’ve got something important on our hands, but no “one-size-fits-all” compliment and compliment style for everyone. The purpose behind this 3 Question Survey was to understand how we can best deliver compliments, and what sorts of compliments we can give, in order to give the most impact to our recipient.
I’m sorry to report that the statistics didn’t give one sure fire way to give a great compliment, and no one compliment took the cake for what people liked to hear the most. In fact, 35% of people said they were comfortable receiving a compliment in any form. 62% of people said they prefer the compliment to be given just between themselves and the compliment giver. When asked what the most meaningful compliment someone could receive or has received was, answers ranged from a job well done, to being someone’s role model, or being a wonderful mom.
But while these answers didn’t crack the code on compliments, there were a few ideas that surfaced that might bring us a little closer to better compliments and better connections. And the first I will leave you with is this; I was waiting in a very busy coffee line, and got to chatting with a mother from Ireland and her young son. I asked her the survey questions, and her answer re-shaped the way I view both compliments, and connecting with others. She said the compliment that would mean the most to her right now is that she is a good mom, and coming from her son, that she was patient. She went on to say that she believes that what people are devoting a significant amount of their lives to at any given moment most likely is of importance to them, and is something they define themselves as. She felt that was the best compliment someone could give to another, because when you compliment something someone is devoting themselves to, you are complimenting part of who they are. And those things can change.
There are people we know in our lives that we can know what they are investing their time and effort in, and it may be easy to compliment them on. But there are a number of things we might not see that defines that individual even more. So my second take away item is that maybe the best compliment we can give someone, is to ask. Ask them what means the most to them in their life, what would mean the most to them to have you notice, what would show them how much they mean to you. Sometimes that answer might surprise you, and other times not. But you are showing that person that you care enough to ask, and you probably got to know them a little better. Don’t be afraid to open up that conversation and connect.
And finally, after asking question number three, “What is the most meaningful compliment you could receive or have received”, it became clear that spending time getting to know others better aren’t the only people deserving of a little attention. There was a number of people who didn’t have an answer to this question, or had a very difficult time responding. If the best compliments tend to be the things that define people the most in their lives, and we have trouble responding to that, are we taking enough time to ask ourselves those questions? Try writing down the 3 key values in your life, the 3 things that take up the most of your time, and 3 words you would use to describe yourself. Asking these questions every so often might help us be able to answer question number 3 with ease, and stay connected with ourselves.
This holiday season, let’s make the effort to ask some of these questions, connect a little better, and share a meaningful compliment. And it doesn’t have to be elaborate. The answer that brought tears to my eyes was my little brother’s answer to number 3: “I love you”.