A few months ago, I was at a Sephora with my mom. As we were checking out—she bought something and I didn’t, because #budget—I told the woman working behind the counter, “Your eye makeup is so cool. I love it.” Previously ambivalent, she smiled and said that I made her day. As we were walking out of the store, my mom expressed how unlike me it was to talk to a stranger (true)—and how nice it was that I randomly complimented said stranger.
That’s the entirely selfish way I came up with a little challenge for myself: To give out at least one compliment every single day.
Think about the last time someone complimented you, whether it was on your outfit, your eye makeup or your latest work presentation. It felt pretty good, didn’t it? You left the interaction walking a little taller, didn’t you? Now think about the last time you complimented someone, whether it was on their outfit, their eye makeup or their latest work presentation. That felt great too, no? Damn right, it did.
Studies have continuously shown the positive effects compliments can have on a variety of aspects of our lives. Professor Nick Haslam of the University of Melbourne told HuffPost Australia, “Compliments can lift moods, improve engagement with tasks, enhance learning and increase persistence." He went on to explain, “Giving compliments is arguably better than receiving them, just as giving gifts or contributing to charity has benefits to the giver.”
There’s one catch: The compliment absolutely has to be genuine. “Faux compliments are likely to have the opposite effect as genuine ones. People who receive them will often feel they are insincere and not well-intentioned, and that undermines any positive effects they might feel about being praised," Haslam said.
Before I embarked on my daily compliment challenge, I set a few ground rules: My compliment had to be absolutely sincere (see the reasoning above). It also couldn’t be in response to a compliment given to me. That second part was particularly tough, since we as women—yes, I’m going to generalize here—have a hard time saying “thank you,” instead of deflecting or reflexively complimenting back.
Initially, I had to resist the urge to compliment just for the sake of meeting my daily quota. After a few weeks, though, it was second nature, largely because I started to become more aware of my surroundings, which resulted in having more things to compliment people on. Just because I didn’t say I liked your dress the last time you wore it doesn’t mean I didn’t like it; I probably just didn’t notice it.
Even if I did notice these types of things, I often didn’t say anything out of sheer laziness. Now, when I love an article written a my co-worker, I’ll shoot her a quick note to say so. When I know that my friend just had her eyelash extensions redone, I’ll tell her that she looks like a beautiful doll (in a non-creepy way, don’t worry). My experiment has also encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. Telling a stranger in line at Sweetgreen that I love her hoops? Me?!
Here's the thing: I challenge you to find one person who doesn't like being complimented. No matter how curmudgeonly you are, when someone says something nice to you, it's really hard not to be a least a little psyched about it. The "happier" part for me comes in when I see someone's face light up and they say I've made their day. I recognize that I haven't done anything earth-shatteringly radical, and maybe we'll both go on to have a kind of crappy day, but it's an extremely low-lift way for two people to share a brief moment of kindness. It's totally simple and a little silly, but another person's happiness at being told you like something about them is contagious.
So yes, my motivations might’ve been (and might still be) a little selfish, but I don’t see anything wrong with that, so long as someone else is getting something out of it too.