One of the worst jobs I ever had was working as a bank teller. I had to be on the front lines of a not-so-great corporation and deal with adult temper tantrums on a daily basis. For an optimist with anxiety, it was emotionally draining work, to say the least.
With each new customer, I hit the conversational reset button. “Hi there! Welcome to (insert bank name here)! How can I help you today?” On one particular occasion, I started in on my generic greeting only to look up and find myself face-to-face with a woman that bore a striking resemblance to the late Tejano singer, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. “I’m sorry, but has anyone ever told you how much you look like Selena?” She said nothing and her expression was one of total shock. I was sure I’d just offended this poor young woman (or she had no idea who I was talking about). “I’m sorry if that was weird to say, but I meant it as a compliment!”
Another moment of silence passed before she finally spoke in a small, shy voice, “Are you sure? She was so beautiful.” It broke my heart to see such a pretty person second guess themselves and I assured her I wouldn’t have given the compliment if it wasn’t genuine.
After she left my station, she walked over to one of our bankers, looked over her shoulder at me, and said something in Spanish. The banker later told me what the woman said.
“That girl told me I look like Selena. No one has ever said that before. I feel so beautiful.”
Compliments are much more powerful than we think. A few kind words that may not mean much to you, may mean the world to someone else. You never know what someone is going through. You never know how the five seconds it takes you to compliment someone is going to effect the rest of their day.
I once heard on a T.V. show (I believe it was Friends, but don’t quote me on that), people only do nice things to make themselves feel good. All nice things are, at their core, selfish. This idea plagued me for a long time. It made me feel guilty for just about every nice thing I did. But recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that kindness and joy go hand-in-hand. And both are extremely contagious. When you are kind, you spread joy and sometimes that joy rubs back off onto you. It’s not a matter of doing something nice so you feel good. It’s a matter of nice things being something that makes EVERYONE feel good. Since when does being kind mean only one person gets to experience the joy of it?
Since my experience with the woman at the bank, I try to compliment someone everyday. Just one small compliment. Maybe I like someone’s dress in the line at the store or run across someone with a really contagious laugh. Sometimes, it’s as small as the color they chose to paint their nails or the way they fixed their hair that day. Whatever it may be, I choose to speak up and share a little joy with them that day.
I think it’s important to note that each compliment is genuine. I don’t go out searching for things to comment on. I don’t keep an eye out for something about someone else that I appreciate. I simply go about my life noticing the beauty in it.
If you wake up everyday and choose to see the beauty in the world around you, you’ll find more things to compliment that you can count. They’ll just come to you. You’ll grow to appreciate so much more about the people around you. It’s such a natural thing, really.
So next time you’re having a bad day, when everything seems to be crumbling around you, try to manifest a little bit of joy. And more than that, multiply it. Share it with at least one person. Kindness is a lot like a seed. It can start so very small and still grow into something oh so beautiful and grand.