3 Reasons Why You Should Keep Track of Compliments

An announcement before we dig into the marrow of today’s topic:

This is the one hundredth post at On the Other Hand! I’m so proud to have reached this milestone. Thank you all for reading and leaving comments over the last seven months.

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Ok, onto today’s topic:

Why You Should Keep Track of Compliments

A friend mentioned recently how much easier it is for her to remember negative thoughts and experiences than it is positive ones. My brain works the same way. Compliments and happy memories seem to fade more quickly than criticism or painful or embarrassing experiences.

Years ago I read a book about joy written by a woman who over a short course of time buried one son and had another son come out of the closet (who was subsequently disowned by their church, community and extended family) while she struggled with a stubborn, years-long bout of depression.*

At a certain point she ran out of things in this world to feel happy about. For this I can’t blame her. Any one of these events would be a challenge. To live through all three simultaneously must have been incredibly difficult! Her response to this chapter in her life was to create something called a joy box: a box filled with cartoons, jokes, encouraging notes from friends and anything else that made her smile.

*It’s been many years since I’ve read this book. Hopefully I’m remembering the details correctly!

About a decade ago I adapted this idea and began sporadically keeping track of compliments. I stopped doing it for several years but recently took the practice up again. Here are three reasons why you should do the same:

  1. It helps you remember the nice things others have said about you. There’s nothing like going back and re-reading a list of compliments at the end of a hard day.
  2. It highlights your strengths. Once the compliments begin to accumulate you’ll probably begin to notice that the same traits or abilities are mentioned over and over again. What is even better, though, is when one or two people pick up on something that you didn’t realize was so deeply appreciated.
  3. It reminds you to pass compliments on. Complaining about a person, institution or situation is easy. Noticing the good they bring into your life takes more practice but it’s even more important than pointing out where and when they’ve made mistakes.

I keep my list of compliments in a Word file. Artistically-inclined people may be interested in decorating a cardboard box, manila folder or some other container. If you do end up making something to store your compliments in I’m interested in seeing pictures of it!

Either way, give this a try. It’s enriched my life and I think it will do the same for yours.

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0 Responses to 3 Reasons Why You Should Keep Track of Compliments

  1. teresa

    Oh, what a delightful idea! It brings back a memory I’ll share.

    Years in the IC drilled into my brain that receiving a compliment is prideful..(maybe it was my upbringing as well), so when I was given a compliment I would have a hard time saying thank you and leaving it at that! I had to make some ‘ubber spiritual comment’ like..oh PTL…or something similar so as not to take any credit for it myself! Then one day someone told me that compliments are like flowers. When someone gives you one you say thank you. At the end of the day you take them all and make a bouquet and are thankful for them! It’s ok to receive a compliment in a gracious way!! The Mennonite lifestyle I was brought up in didn’t promote this.

    I want to make a compliment box…what a nice idea! Thanks!!

  2. Great idea! It’s too easy to wallow in negative feelings, especially when we make mistakes where we should have known better, or could have done things better if we took a moment to pause think things through.

  3. Flat Stanley

    R you thinking, perhaps, of Barbara Johnson’s book, “Pain is Inevitable but misery is optional, so stick a geranium in your hat and be happy!”?

    You might also enjoy a slim volume by Florence Littauer called “Balcony People.” SImple and amazing concept that asks the question, “Who ya listenin’ to?”

    I keep an Atta Girl file at work and every single atta girl, no matter how brief, gets printed and saved.

  4. I like the Buddhist philosophy that says both good and bad experiences are our enemies. That in the sense that we shouldn’t base our opinion of ourselves or our view of life on things people say or do. Instead, we should be able to look deep inside, self-evaluate ourselves, and know who we are, so others can’t brings up or down, and we can be steady.

    Personally, I rarely take compliments too seriously. They’re usually said by people who have flattery as a way to be liked. I’d like to believe that I like myself as I am, regardless of others’ opinions.

    Also, I don’t like to be surrounded by controlling people. And I have noticed that those who want to control me–or make me do something for them–usually try to get “into my head” by complimenting me. One example is sales people, they’re the best complimenters.

    • Now this is an interesting perspective!

      Do you respond the same way to constructive criticism?

      • I find that ever since I stopped measuring myself according to others’ perspectives, constructive criticism mostly comes from observing what my actions provoke in others. I have become more watchful of body language. We can always tell what people are feeling by face expressions or speech, even if they’re trying their darnest to hide how we annoy them. I love to study people.

    • Flat Stanley

      Wow, that’s interesting. I pass out compliments all the time for a couple of reasons: 1). It helps me to focus on the gifts of others; 2). I sincerely want people to see the gifts of themselves and 3). I strongly pursue positive relationships, and compliments/expressions of appreciation help build the foundation for that.

      And I am willing to invest months and months of time into building those relationships. For one thing, I value collaboration because we can get a lot more done that way. As intentional as I am in building those relationships, in the end I never feel as though I have “used” someone, because in the end both me and the other person walk away so much better for having learned to appreciate each other.

      But I think I see what you are saying. It can take months to build those relationships because people do not tend to trust some stranger at face value. There are gender differences, and political, gender orientation, good ol’ culture, age, and racial differences to bridge, and on top of that there’s perceptions of status at work, social class, education, etc.

      Life’s been a lot better since I realized that all that stuff, though perceived and acted upon as real, is superficial. But — moment of truth, here — sometimes I’m the one with the barriers.

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