Free and Easy Pleasure: Giving A Compliment

Offering a compliment is really creating pleasure between two people.

Posted Jan 18, 2011

Free and Easy Pleasure: Giving A Compliment by Isadora Alman, MFT

When I was little I heard my father say "You can't pass along perfume without getting some on your hands." That didn't make sense to me. Sure you could. Wipe the bottle clean then offer it. Voila, passed perfume and your own hands still unscented.

Of course, what he meant was that if you do a good deed of any sort you will reap the benefits too. I think offering someone a compliment is an excellent example of that.

A recent exchange with a Psychology Today reader made me ponder the subject. The other evening I was having a discussion with my partner about several areas of frustration in my life, particularly that my talents were not being properly appreciated. My partner said all the right things and made some excellent suggestions . Nonetheless, heaving a sigh, I dispiritedly turned back to my computer and logged on.

What I found was a lovely letter commenting on something I published here. The comments were well written by someone of obvious intelligence and I was delighted. The specifics could not have been better chosen nor more timely. My mood lifted like a summer fog bank and I was happy, energized and eager to begin writing again. I have seen on the faces of others exactly what I felt on reading those comments - a suffusion of pleasure.

I would hope that the person who commented on what I wrote enjoyed reading it, that his good feelings are what occasioned his writing to me and so creating my own. I hope, as the saying goes, that it wasn't a case of "the pleasure is all mine".

When I am uneasy among strangers I have long made it a practice to open a conversation with a compliment: "What a lovely pin you're wearing" or "That's a great shade for someone of your coloring ." Usually that begins a conversion about the item that moves on to other topics. Sometimes it yields nothing more than "Thank you".

My guess is that the person to whom I addressed my remark feels momentarily happy about his or her choices. I know I feel better about having had a human interchange, usually accompanied by receiving a smile from the other person. There's the perfume on the hands bit. Because I said something nice to a stranger the moods of two people have been lifted.

It costs so little, no huge effort really, to let another person know that she or he is noticed and appreciated - a quick note or email, a few words. The payoff is usually so much greater than the original expenditure of energy....much like making love. That's what offering a compliment is really, creating pleasure between two people. I'm all for that. Aren't you?