A few years ago, my husband and I were talking about girls he knew in high school and how teen-aged girls – in general – often lack confidence. I asked him if he knew any girls in high school who were genuinely confident, and he named two.
The following year, we were lucky enough to run into one of these unusually confident women, and Ned discreetly reminded me that this was the girl (now a woman in her thirties) from high school whom he had told me about. Later in the morning, as we chatted, I was tempted to tell her what Ned said many months before. I felt self-conscious. Was that a weird thing to say to someone I had just met that day? It sounded oddly “suck-upish” to me, and I almost didn’t say it. Then I thought, What the hell?
“So, do you know what Ned told me about you?” I asked shyly. “He said that you were one of the only truly confident girls he knew in high school.”
She laughed, and I could tell she was surprised, but she was also gracious about the whole thing. I didn’t feel weird about it anymore and quickly forgot about the whole thing.
A few months later, Ned received an email from her. Since we’d seen her, her life had taken a turbulent turn, and she was working through some major changes. She’d e-mailed Ned because she wanted him to know that as she was going through this rough patch, she kept going back to what he said about her and it was something that gave her strength when she needed it.
How often do you think something nice about someone but you keep it to yourself? How often would it feel awkward or silly, so you keep your mouth shut because it’s easier? I used to do that a lot, but I now make an effort to catch myself, take a deep breath, and blurt it out, even when it feels a bit awkward. And invariably, people are grateful. You can tell they usually feel a little uncomfortable, because most women in our culture are uncomfortable with compliments, but it also boosts them up. And who couldn’t use that every once in a while? It’s one of those things that takes minimal effort from you, but just might make a big difference to someone else.