I’ve been thinking a lot about the saying “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” It’s a solid statement. Especially because there’s a lot of negativity that surrounds us. Heck, many of us are guilty of contributing to the discord around us because there is always something to complain about. And often someone to complain about.
But I want to talk about the opposite of that well-worn saying. I guess I could phrase it like this:
“If you have something nice to say, say it.”
It’s so simple and easy, and I just wish that way more people would speak up and encourage others on a constant and consistent basis. And I’m talking about outside of our family and beyond our loved ones. I’m talking strangers. God knows we all could use genuine compliments and affirmations more often during our days and weeks, especially because we are living in such a hyper-critical time where there is so much pressure to be “perfect” and come across like you have it together in all areas of your life. Plus, I’m really hard on myself most of the time (and I bet you’re the same), and when someone expresses a kind word with no agenda, it’s so refreshing. And comforting. Like the cool side of your pillow.
God knows we all could use genuine compliments and affirmations more often, especially because we are living in such a hyper-critical time where there is so much pressure to be “perfect” and come across like you have it together in all areas of your life.
Why do we hesitate to say something nice to someone when it pops into our mind? One major reason is that we think it will make the other person uncomfortable or creeped out. If a kind and authentic compliment comes to mind when I see something or someone, I express it no matter what.
Why? Well, for a number of reasons:
- Because everyone is fighting some kind of battle.
- Because everyone struggles with fear, self-doubt, and insecurities.
- Because everyone is harder on themselves than they should be.
- Because words can heal.
- Because the power of life and death is in the tongue.
- Because everyone is weary, and God just might have given me the words to sustain them for a little bit longer.
- Because I need life-sustaining words from others, and so I am compelled to extend the same to them.
- Because I don’t want the fear of embarrassment or awkwardness to keep me from doing something I know is right.
I don’t even care who it is – and that’s the point. Anyone of any age and gender deserves and often secretly hopes for a kind word. I’ll compliment a person at a party for small but gracious acts of service that no one else seems to notice. I’ll compliment the guy behind the fish counter at my local supermarket for always being friendly (his name is Drew, he has a bunny, and he loves electric guitar). I’ll compliment a teen on their Vans sneakers or choker necklace or simply because I know they’re just trying to make it through the growing-up years. If I sense a void that can be filled with a specific and encouraging word from my heart to anyone else’s heart, I will immediately fill it.
Anyone of any age and gender deserves and often secretly hopes for a kind word.
Is it possible that it freaks them out slightly because it’s unexpected and seemingly random? Yes. Is it possible they will think I am hitting on them? Yes. Is it possible they will think I have some ulterior motive? Yes.
But is the potential benefit well worth that risk? YES. I’ve been caught off guard by genuine compliments from others over the years, and even if I was taken aback in the moment, I reflected on it later with fondness and gratefulness. And I didn’t flatter myself by thinking they were hitting on me.
If you have something nice to say, say it.
Please don’t worry about coming across as weird. If you think about it, the only reason it may possibly seem is because it’s abnormal (i.e., not normal). But that’s so sad!!!!! Encouraging words exchanged between humans should be the norm, not the exception! Hearing warm sentiments expressed between people at work and at the grocery store and at restaurants and at the gym should be a tremendous regularity, not a rarity. It absolutely should be part of our social convention. It should be the way we participate in society and do “community” together.
Hearing warm sentiments expressed between people should be a regularity, not a rarity. It absolutely should be part of our social convention. It should be the way we participate in society and do “community” together.
But it just isn’t. And I really want it to be. And I really hope you do too.
Compliments can lead to connections, and we all desire connection. Even brief, fleeting ones. Even ones that end as quickly as they begin, but were special for an instant.
Whenever I go somewhere, I make it a point to encourage at least one stranger with a kind word. Always and no matter what. Maybe this would come naturally to you, if you tried it. Maybe it wouldn’t because it’s outside of your comfort zone. I understand. But I think it’s such a great thing to start, and to make habitual. We all want to make a meaningful impact on this planet, and this is the simplest and easiest way to do it. I believe that not only will your words make a difference far beyond you’ll ever know, but you’ll become even more of the type of person you want to be.
If you have something nice to say, say it.