Thinking Something Positive About Someone? Tell them.
You can stay safe or lift someone's spirits and make a connection. What will you choose?
Welcome to another edition of Beyond Self Improvement! Last Wednesday, I published Awaken to Your True Essence.
Today’s essay is about something that we all do but rarely discuss: withholding our positive thoughts about others. If you’re new, please join our growing community and get my next essay in your inbox by subscribing below.
We often think positive thoughts about others but keep them to ourselves.
Sometimes we forget. Other times, we are afraid to look foolish or vulnerable. But the result is the same: we miss the opportunity to communicate something we like or appreciate about another person.
Sadly, most think everyone judges us for our perceived negative qualities. But friends and strangers regularly think positive thoughts about us. Withholding compliments robs others of an opportunity to lift their spirits, leave them feeling cared for, and perhaps even raise their self-esteem. We also deprive ourselves of a chance to deepen our relationship.
But why do we do this? Why do we hesitate to express what we admire about others? There are many reasons, such as:
Fear of being inappropriate. We worry that what we say may be deemed unprofessional.
Fear of romantic interest. We worry the other person may think we are hitting on them, whether they are the opposite or the same sex.
Fear of misunderstanding. We worry the other person may think we are manipulating them.
Fear of repercussions. We worry our compliment may be used against us in the future.
These fears are understandable. But they prevent us from connecting with others in a meaningful way. They block us from experiencing the beauty of spontaneity. They keep us from being our authentic selves. The truth is, every time I’m afraid to share a compliment but do so anyway, the recipient appreciates it.
So, how can we overcome these fears and share what we like about others? Here are some tips that can help:
Be sincere and specific. Tell the other person what you like or appreciate about them and why. Your compliment will be more meaningful and memorable.
Be timely. Share what you want to say immediately before the opportunity passes. Don’t worry about choosing the right words—your intention and way of being are far more critical.
Be respectful. Don't cross the line between compliment and flattery. Don't invade the other person's privacy or personal space. You know the difference others do, too.
Be unconditional. Be gracious with your words. Share your appreciation freely and sincerely. Expect nothing in return.
I promised myself years ago to share any positive thoughts I have about others. Here are some recent examples:
Today, on a Zoom call, I told a client who is turning forty that she looked ten years younger. Her face lit up, and she beamed with joy. I’m glad I pushed past my fear of being inappropriate.
Yesterday, I complimented someone on Twitter for their keen insight.
Over the weekend, I thanked my partner for flying to my dad’s 90th birthday, acknowledging that social settings are challenging for her.
So, whenever you think a positive thought about someone, tell them. If you like their smile, let them know. If you like how good the meal tastes, say it. If you appreciate how you can tell them anything and not feel judged, share that.
Have the courage to express what’s on your mind. Be willing to be vulnerable, authentic, and kind—risk making someone's day. You never know how much your words will mean to someone.
Thanks for reading.
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