You were born to count the stars PART 2

Have you ever received a genuine compliment? I’m sure you have. And have you ever had an opportunity to give a compliment that came from your heart? Probably also.

But we do it way too rarely. And this is a huge pity.

I believe that compliments are the best feedback you can give to someone. BUT (!): Compliments have to be real, genuine and based on facts. Otherwise it’s just plain small talk that in best case keeps the other person amused and in the worst case she/he might feel offended that you make fun of them. In order to be able to think of an appropriate compliment, you have to learn to listen to certain skills and values within the person you are about to compliment. And to do this, you can not listen to their problems, nor can you take a judgemental position.

I regularly run exercises on compliments when I work with groups. And I use it all the time with my clients. Why? Because I want to make them feel better? No. I use this as a feedback to show them their own resources. And it works.

Such an activity I prepared for my youth exchange group I told you about in Part 1 of this blog post. The activity was to write on our backs some things we appreciate about the other person. The key was that we were not allowed to see what’s on our backs, nor who is writing. In the second part we wrote our own qualities that we believe we possess ourselves, on a special piece of paper and later on combined it with what was written on our backs. It is much fun to observe people’s reactions as they read messages from random people. Often it happens that the messages are accurate and even much more appreciative than what you dare to say or think about yourself. To sum up the exercise, we read aloud three things about ourselves that touched us the most. It was a very special moment and some people reported that it was hard for them to read aloud positive things about them, but because we created a very safe and intimate atmosphere, they took a chance and were not disappointed afterwards.

Just for fun, try to use a compliment as a feedback when somebody asks you a question or expects you to comment on a current debate issue. You might be very surprised what you’ll get in return. I do it all the time and sometimes the boomerang hits me back with unexpected surprises.

Take this for example: while I was in the UK, I got pretty attached to a certain cup/coffee mug. It was a very funny cup with cute small sausage dogs drawings. I always had my tea or hot water (a strange habit, I’ll tell you more about it on some other occassion) in that mug. Always. Then as the family noticed how much I like that mug, they took me to the store where they bought it. But unfortunately it was last season’s model and they ran out of it. I was quite disappointed, but hey, it was not meant to be. I took a picture of it and promised myself that I’ll make my own one day.

Then, a couple of days ago, I got a package. Didn’t look carefully where it came from, because I was expecting something and thought that was it. But inside there was something wraped and a message enclosed. It was the sausage dog mug! I couldn’t believe my eyes. R. made special efforts to look that mug up and she said it was the last one. And I knew she liked this mug as much as I did, but she bought this one and sent it to me from England. I was really really touched and grateful. To have friends like that who remember you and make something so nice, is a true gem.  A gem to value and nourish.

Try. Compliments work. If you don’t know how, come to some of my workshops and I’ll show you ;). You’ll learn it quickly.

back feedback

My back feedback. I was deeply touched.

sausage dog

THE sausage dog mug

Blackberry Kiss

Fancy blackberries? Me too. Fruit is my favourite food and I’m a very lucky person in summer, because there’s plenty of it.

Being a child of nature, always picking fruit from bushes or trees or whatever, I still as an adult keep this habit as my one time favourite to acquire desired delicious pieces. And for several weeks now, I steadily pick our blackberry bushes every morning for our breakfast.

But guess what. Our BB bushes grow steep up the hill. Not far, but very steep. Second, as I’m clearly not the only blackberry fan around here, there are many other delegates, such as wasps. Third, blackberries have thorns. Not thorns like roses, but teeny tiny thorns that you can hardly see, but are a curse if you get wraped. The more you resist, the more they come at you and wedge you. Seriously, it’s like a trap, it gets to you slowly, but thoroughly, and neither your clothes, nor your skin are safe.

Our bushes seemed to have won quite many battles and I got scars, but still won a prize, regarding our breakfast cereal bowls. Then after a while back and forth, strange things began to happen. Bushes started talking to me. One day, I was climbing my way up to the battle field and suddenly I didn’t try to scare the wasps away. I just joined and while they were upset for a moment, the next one they let me merge with them. Not even one wasp would attack me, but I had to be really slow and in a peaceful mood. Then I started to pick the berries. The bush whispered. It was very early in the morning and not even the sun was up. The bush and wasps and me. Communicating. Getting to really know each other. Learning how to co-exist in a way that is right for all of us. I realized that I have to take it real slow. With gentle moves. With absolute calm, no rush, no hurry. No thoughts, just trying to go along the frequence that was already there. It worked. I realized that going slow and staying on the surface provided me with great strength and I could achieve my goal without getting wounded.

I wondered if I could transfer this lesson from the nature into human relationships.

It turned out I can. I have an acquaintance who is a big complainer about everything and everybody. Since he knows I’m in the helping profession and am trained to help people deal with difficult situations, he uses every opportunity to brings his complaints to me. But when I ask him if he would like to work with me, he refuses and says he has no problems to resolve. So eventually, I got irritated to be the doormat ready to listen to his complaints and not to make any use of it. I’m a person who doesn’t like to perform meaningless actions that lead nowhere. And just because somebody else does, doesn’t mean I need to be involved.

The next time he came, I was ready. I was the blackberry bush. I didn’t interrupt him or ask questions. I was thinking how I could wrap him around gently, yet still keeping his attention and point to a direction where he would begin to think about his behaviour in a different way. So I just waited until he finished what he had to say for that day and then replied with:

I’m really impressed how you manage to devote so much of your time and energy for others. I think that you care a great deal and am wondering what do you think how they might respond, should they know about you caring so much?

It was not a question, just a plain, genuine compliment. He looked at me for a while, trying to translate my words and then he said:

Gee. You know, I never thought of that from this perspective. I don’t know. I need to think.

I saw him again two days after our last conversation. He approached me, as usual, but now told me everything about what others did that he liked. He was still talking much, but instead of complaining, he was proudly announcing all the good things he had noticed in others.

I love Blackberries.

berry bowl

Blackberries are leading from behind – hidden under raspberries and blueberries. The best way to lead, is leading from behind.