Fishing For Compliments With Two Poles

Fishing For Compliments With Two Poles

By By Caroline Schumsky

I heard that. You’re mumbling some choice words through those clenched teeth. I get it. You’re kind of grumpy, grouchy, and crotchety today. We’ve all been there. If you want to crawl out from under that black cloud, here’s a handy-dandy tip. Toss out a good word to the next person who crosses your path. It doesn’t matter what you puff up – even if it’s just telling her you love her shoes, or patting him on the back for no reason at all. Just sing someone’s praises, and dole out some warm fuzzies.

Why? you rightfully ask. Think about any funeral you attended. Notice how the eulogies were all so touching and tear-jerking. I have a question. Why wait till someone is gone to finally say something heartwarming about them? Every one of us is wearing an imaginary pin that says: “Please notice me.” Look at it this way: You would never dream of withholding food or water from someone who needed it – even a stranger. So why do we emotionally starve others by withholding appreciation and recognition. A simple smile can ignite a rush of self-esteem in someone you simply pass on the street. Your compliment could have been a life preserver. Quite literally. Here’s a corny one: “Are you a dictionary? Because you add meaning to my life.” Aww.

You all know the feeling when you go to an event and throngs of people befriend you, but there’s one sourpuss who refuses to even greet you. And for some reason, you can’t get that person’s face out of your head all night long. That is how powerful negativity can be. Acceptance is one of the deepest human cravings, and no one is free from it. We humans have a psychological need to feel respected. We long to feel like we “belong,” to satisfy our need for personal worth in this world. Do you remember feeling: “Hey. Someone noticed me today.”? You feel so special, 24-K, even just for a moment. Oh, someone complimented me on my driving today, leaving a note on my windshield. It said: “Parking Fine.”

After all, who wouldn’t want to be around people who admire you, agree with you often, and do a whole bunch of nice things for you? If folks do not feel emotionally nourished, they may feed that hunger in any way they can. Do not allow that to happen to those in your circle of life. Check yourself, please. Are you giving your employees the credit they deserve for their suggestions and efforts? Do you practice overt favoritism with one of your children? Are you bruising anyone’s ego?

If you refuse to marinate in daily negativity, know that there are some hidden benefits for you. If you busy yourself making someone else’s day sunnier, it takes the focus off of things that may be going wrong in your day. Oh, and are y’all aware that smiling burns calories? Laughing burns even more. And you know that running to the refrigerator does not constitute exercise. But I digress.

We may have a built-in bias to pay more attention to negatives as a means of self-preservation. Sure, that mentality may keep us safe from life-threatening risks. But do not allow that to prevent you from noticing all the praiseworthy things around you. Do you gripe at or about the waiter if he serves your order cold? Do you thank him if he served everything just right? Aha. Take notice please of how often you applaud, give bouquets, or simply offer best wishes. Are you Google, because you’re everything I’m searching for? Heh.

If you see everything (and everyone) as a competition, you may convince yourself that by cheering or celebrating someone else, you are giving “the competition” more points than yourself. It is high time for you to quit the scorekeeping. Look in the mirror, dude. That’s your horse race right there.

We are all struggling. And your words, my friends, may be what stand between someone giving up or becoming victorious. You can soften some strained relationships by simply choosing one quality they have that you may admire – and telling them. Your humility might even impress them a tad. G’head and watch some of that ice melt right before your eyes.

Okay. Warning: Do not give back-handed compliments, please. You know what I mean. When you say something like: “Wow, that cake tastes surprisingly good.” Ouch. Or “You’re still at the same job. I’m impressed, dude.” No, no. Be real and heartfelt with that pat on the back. Don’t forget to taste those words before you spit them out. You never look good trying to make someone else look bad.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to Google how others truly feel about us? Try saying nice things to your loved ones or friends when they aren’t around and in front of other folks, too. Show how proud you are to know them. You know what they say: True friends are the ones who say nice things behind your back.

Play a game with your family. Tell your kids to tune their antennae for good stuff. They can even get a prize if you “catch them” saying something kind to someone.

For all of y’all who have stopped me to say a few kind words about this here column: (mush alert) If I had a star for every time you brightened my day, I’d have a galaxy in my hand. (Heh.) Thank you.

So go ahead and dole out some knee-melting praise. Be a morale booster and toss around some of that approval and adoration. It’s okay to smile at a stranger, too. After all, we’re all in this together.


Caroline is a licensed psychotherapist, crisis counselor, and writer with an office in Queens.  She works with individuals, couples, and families.  Appointments are available throughout the week and weekends.  She can be reached at 917-717-1775 or at or at