Lately I’ve been trying this new thing. Well, I’m still on the fence about it for a few different reasons, but every day I go out in public, I’m trying to find somebody to compliment. Something simple, like “I like your hair,” or “Cool shirt!” as we walk past each other. I want to start doing it because I know it leaves a long lasting mark on people. A stranger giving positive feedback on you can be huge and brighten your whole day. The reason I’m still unsure about it is because in this day and age, you never know how much of a mistake involving yourself with somebody to any degree can be.
So, while I decide whether this is something I actively want to try, I’ve been giving myself baby steps and rules. Some of these could be based on fallacious ideas, but they’re bound to have some credence to them.
First and most importantly, I only think about genuine compliments. The biggest thing is to be honest with people. That will inevitably take some potential targets off the list, sure. Whatever. But this whole idea is that it will make you happy to make somebody happy, so even thinking about things positively will brighten your day to a small scale.
Second, and this works best when I’m on campus going in between classes, compliment people that are alone and walking in the opposite direction as you. I personally don’t want to have an actual conversation with anybody. I hate small talk (which may come off as something of a paradox in this circumstance, but I don’t care to justify that today). You also don’t want to sound like you want something from them or anything like that. You want to be clear that you are simply saying something nice. It will have far more impact if people don’t suspect you have an ulterior motive. This can be tricky. Our daily lives are based on small assumptions we make constantly. You also want this person alone because you don’t want to come up with two compliments. You’ll end up grasping for straws and its impact may be somewhat diluted if they’re with a friend, (or god forbid significant other).
Lastly, target the group of people you’re most comfortable complimenting in this sort of scenario. This probably means picking a gender, but it doesn’t have to. Maybe you’re more comfortable addressing people of the gender you’re not attracted to simply because you’re shy. Or maybe you’re uncomfortable talking to anybody outside of (or inside) your age group! Whatever works best for you.
Now, I will be honest here. I haven’t even done this once. I have given out one compliment I normally would not, and it was with a stranger, but it was at the end of a two minute conversation we had. They won’t remember me as the person that went out of their way to compliment them, which is sort of the whole point. But there are a few reasons I’m hesitant to put this positivity into practice. The biggest one is that I don’t want to get caught in an actual conversation, because I’m very introverted and asocial. I especially don’t want to talk to them if they are suspicious of my intentions. I don’t want to have to defend my actions, which is probably something of an empty fear, but the reality exists that somebody may get offended by whatever I say and I honestly don’t know how well I may handle that situation. I’m also listening to music in between classes, so I’d have to very noticeably take out my earphones to say something to them, which seems a little weird. Maybe I should just force myself to not listen to music.
So, what I’m left with is silently thinking about what I like regarding the strangers that pass by me every day. The funny thing is even doing that brightens your own day a little bit. Don’t think about how loud and obnoxious that person is, think about their cool tattoo or glasses or whatever. Even if you never actually say anything to any stranger, you start seeing the world in a more positive light, and it comes at no risk to you. You might as well start there and see where it goes.