From controversies to news of warfare, to fires and an imminent environmental meltdown… we are continually bombarded with information that puts us into flight or fight mode. Social media lets us paint a glorious picture of our lives to a larger world while behind closed doors and inside the secret rooms of our mind we battle with the dichotomy that the rest of lives, hidden from the adoring likes of our posts, is filled with dark imaginings and uncomfortable secrets that may never be shared. Depression and suicide are on the rise. Autoimmune illnesses grow every day, as do behavior disorders. Children as young as eight are put on mood correctional medication and it boggles the mind to think this great human endeavor that has taken us into space and cloned life has served to create a world where, as Thoreau so eloquently put it, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
So, how do we change this? How do we make this world a kinder place? My ideal world would be a vegan one, where people like Ricky Gervais became politicians and money did not decide educational or health care outcomes for people. But the idealist in me is, luckily, tempered by realism, and I know my ideal world may only ever exist in my mind.
While I may not win the Nobel prize for anything other than getting things impressively and continually wrong, I have figured out how to change the world for the better in small, infinitesimal ways. And I do it by doling out compliments freely. To pretty much anyone. I tell police officers that they look smart in their uniforms; I tell my friends as often as I can how much I admire them. I tell people who work for me, or that I mentor, how special they are and what a great job they’re doing. I have started the process of internally listing good things about people I acutely dislike. I let my house help know how much I value them. I acknowledge openly those that have helped my cause and helped me get ahead.
The ripple effect of this is powerful. When you genuinely praise someone, you set in motion a chain of events that creates a circle of virtue. Most people like to live up to praise received, and with some luck the chain will eventually circle back to you. The beauty of this quick fix for all that ails the world is that it costs you nothing. But you may have made someone’s battle with self-esteem easier and given someone hope that the next day is worth living for. You may cheer up a stranger going through heartbreak and lift the spirits of a struggling parent.
Look up, look around, really look, at your fellow travelers as they journey with you around the sun. If someone has a nice smile or eyes, tell them. If someone is wearing a beautiful shirt tell them. If a man is carrying a baby around tell him you appreciate his daddy skills. Women complimenting other women is especially wonderful as patriarchy can face no greater assault than women handing out genuine praise to each other. There is much to appreciate in the strangers around us. And in a world filled with so much hate and intolerance, an authentic compliment is your gift to a broken world… the only meaningful footprint you will leave behind.
So, get out there… tell that supermarket checkout girl she’s super-efficient and tell your watchman you appreciate his honesty. Call your high school teachers and thank them for all they did. In this age of performative criticism praise is the ultimate funky cool. Be funky cool!
Sangeetha Shinde Tee is an author of four books, editor of 3 international magazines, an acclaimed healer, and reluctant entrepreneur. Also an unconventional traveler, rebellious truth seeker, and inveterate animal rescuer, she is working on her fifth book – a collection of ghost stories from around the world. Find out more about her life, books, and work at www.sangeethashindetee.com