The value of a compliment
In 2006, my Hubby and I spent two weeks in Western Australia. It was a fantastic holiday, WA is a wonderful place for the nature lover. It is gorgeous.
About halfway through the holiday we had a long stretch of a drive between Albany and Toodyay. It was a road trip where we hadn’t planned where we were going to stay, we just grabbed what we could when we got there. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Toodyay around 5pm, so had a good percentage of the population of Australia – there was a festival on and the entire town was booked out.
After a mild ‘oh, god, we’re going to have to sleep in the car’, we decided to check accommodation at our next planned stop, Cervantes, and see if we could get something there. We were quite happy to contact a motel that said yes, they had space. So we set off.
Cervantes is nearly 250 kilometres from Toodyay and it was heading towards 6pm after a full day of driving. I’m an experienced driver and I can drive at night with no real problem, however I had learned by that point that Western Australia has a lot of wildlife and I wasn’t happy to be driving after dark for that reason (for both the wildlife’s health and mine). Generally, even here in South Australia, I try to respect the wildlife by driving through the day and going to roost before the wildlife gets active at night (I absolutely refused to drive at night on Kangaroo Island…and I still managed to hit a goanna in the middle of the day, last time I was there 🙁 ).
I was a little tense for this reason, but we made it safe about 8.30pm. The people at the motel had a restaurant for their residents and, after a comment that they were happy to see we had arrived safely, they sat us down for dinner.
The food was good, the service was great and I was happy we were there. Unfortunately there was another group of tourists at a table near our’s who weren’t so happy. The wait staff were attentive and helpful, going out of their way to attend to all of their guests, but the men in particular at that table were being horribly rude and it seemed that nothing the staff could do would please them. After them being so nice to me and Hubby, they had to receive such crassness from these people, it set my blood boiling. They were being absolute pigs.
There was nothing I could do about it, but watch. If I had said anything, it would have likely have deteriorated further (and I’m a wuss). So I had to grin and bear it.
But I decided that there was one thing I could do. As we were leaving to retire to our room, I asked for a piece of paper and a pen, and wrote down as good a compliment as I could. I told them how good a job they had been doing, I told them how grateful we were that they had had a room for us, and I complimented them on their service. I folded the piece of paper in half, handed it over and left.
I hoped that perhaps I could even out the scales a little and cut down some of the damage that the pigs had done.
Apparently it worked, because when we left for Geraldton a couple of days later they handed over a bottle of wine and a thankyou note. They said my compliment had made their night.
I’m not a demonstrative person and most of the time I’m absent-minded, forgetting to say thankyou, not having the right expression on my face when given presents, usually fumbling to say the right thing in most situations, but I have learnt to try and make the effort to let others know that they are appreciated. I often think it, but neglect to say it, but I am trying.
How did I realise how important a compliment could be?
Through the netiquette in the world of online writing. Experiencing the elation of positive feedback, giving it in return and seeing that elation in others is a determining way to learn.
A compliment has enough power to change a life. Taking those few minutes to type up some positive and constructive feedback for a written piece of work can mean the difference between that person becoming a writer or putting away their tools and never picking them up again. It can be the same for artists. If I had a dollar for each time I’ve heard someone say ‘I can’t draw’, I’d have quite a stash.
Well, I can draw. I’ve been able to since I was seven. It is one of the few things I have been confident of my entire life. But I have been drawing since I was seven. I have been practising all my life and I KNOW I can draw.
But what if I hadn’t been confident? What if I didn’t think I could draw? Would I have practised as much? Does my skill come from some magical talent I was born with, or is it a confidence that has been built up by comments from others justifying that I was doing the ‘right’ thing?
I think back to my drawings as a kid and I wonder if there was any real difference between mine and the average drawing skill for that age. I’m beginning to think that perhaps I received the right compliments at the right time that bolstered my confidence enough to keep trying, to keep practising, that eventually gave me the skill to do what I can now.
And to think what I could have been capable of with even more.
We each have this power to support others. Some of us might fumble or forget, but the power to help another, even if it is to just brighten their day, is there.
Use it and make the world a better place.