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You Complete Me

“You complete me.”

Okay, when we think of compliments, we may think of famous, over-the-top ones like this from the film “Jerry Maguire,” directed by Cameron Crowe in 1996.

Let’s bring it down a notch or two and consider the power there may be in compliments for the receiver as well as the giver.

There actually is a National Compliment Day which falls annually on January 24th. The purpose of this holiday is to say something nice to your friends, family, and co-workers. Studies have shown that giving compliments also has a beneficial effect on the person giving the compliment. In other words, give a compliment and you may make yourself happy as well.

“Readers Digest” has surveyed people over the years and found some of the best compliments include things like: “you’re a great listener,” “you’re an amazing parent,” “you inspire me,” “I have faith in you,” and others.

“Harvard Business Review” found that people often underestimate the impact of their compliments on others. They also found that people are overly concerned about their ability to skillfully give praise to another person. We all feel dorky or awkward, and then our anxiety leaves us pessimistic about the effects of their praise.

Just like eating well and exercising, we as humans have a fundamental need to be seen, honored, and appreciated by other people. This is true in the work setting as well as life in general.

One author believed it is about creating a culture of gratitude. This may be more important now than ever. Regularly expressing appreciation to another human being helps create this culture. The impact of these positive gestures can not be overstated.

Like anything worth doing, it takes practice. Some of us are shy or timid and not comfortable expressing our emotions. I believe once you get the hang of it, giving praise or compliments will be become easy, comfortable and an essential daily task.

You’ll be expressing your genuine appreciation to a co-worker, a boss, a waiter, a store clerk, or even your spouse, your children, and your mother-in-law.

Researchers have discovered that the same area of the brain, the striatum, is activated when a person is rewarded with a compliment or cash. These are sometimes called “social rewards.” This research could further suggest that when the striatum is activated, it seems to encourage the person to perform better during exercises.

It may be that receiving praise releases a chemical in the brain called dopamine. It is the same chemical that is released when we fall in love, eat a yummy treat, or meditate. It is “nature’s reward” and a way of encouraging the same behavior in the future.

Gratitude, I believe, is the key action going on here. And to be specific, if you want to impact your life for the better, pay attention to what you think about. This is the power of gratitude.  Appreciating someone strengthens your relationship with them. It may even inspire your partner or workmate to act in turn. Also, when someone gives you a compliment, accept it! Many people react to compliments by getting embarrassed (oh no!), criticizing themselves (oh it wasn’t really very good at all), or generally brushing it off. Many of us are so focused on the things we do not like that we overlook the nice things people around us are saying. When you get a compliment, do not put yourself down, deflect the compliment, point out your weaknesses, or say it was just luck. Instead, be appreciative and gracious, say thank you, and if relevant, offer a compliment of your own.

Making these positive exchanges a habit leads to a stronger sense of intimacy, trust, and belonging. Further practicing gratitude in all your relationships can lead to calmer, happier you. So, show your appreciation for someone by focusing on the thoughtful (and sometimes invisible) things they do.

Grateful individuals are also more likely to make healthy behaviors a part of their lifestyle. They make time for general check-ups. They exercise more and make healthier choices about eating and drinking. All these things improve health.

A comment about teams in the work setting: gratitude is important to a team’s wellness. Team members who feel appreciated and recognized will extend those feeling to others, creating a positive cycle.