I’ve been blown away by kind words and friendships this week.
A study from twenty years ago suggests that two people can fall in love by following a set of questions and looking into each others eyes. When I read the linked article, my suspicion was that it’s the compliments that do it. When people feel comfortable enough that they can accept sincere compliments from another person, they start to have a new level of relationship. I think it works the other way too: when you take time to think of what you like about another person, you end up appreciating that person even more.
I noticed this effect when I was a teenager and it was all the rage to embroider denim work shirts for friends. Whenever I spent the time embroidering a design on a friend’s or family member’s shirt, I would find myself liking that person more. It’s as though putting in the work made my brain justify the work by making my heart warm up.
I’m not trying to be cynical or to suggest that the heart-warming is ill-manufactured. I’ve felt the opposite effect as well: when admired in the way that Bryce Hedstrom suggests (Mindset), I find myself striving happily to work even harder, even as I like that person more. A visiting Russian colleague once spent a semester in my classroom. She would enthusiastically tell me every time I did something well, and I believe my teaching improved by light years during that semester. Laurie Clarcq has developed a coaching method that follows this method of commenting (sincerely) on what is positive, and her approach explains why we all love her so much.
–Oh my…I was going to announce to anyone who’d missed it that Laurie’s blog is back up and incredible, went to get a link to it, and found this post about the power of kindness. Laurie says in the post that she needs reminders, but anyone who knows her know that this is the way she operates. (Laurie gave me a pair of “You are awesome” socks, and when I put them on and look down at my toes, I am suddenly energized for whatever my next task might be.)
If you read Laurie’s post, you’ll understand why I am now triple-motivated to continue our birthday card Fridays. Some students do roll their eyes at thinking up compliments for the birthday children. But most try to come up with true reasons they appreciate the others in the class. It is so much fun to read what kids write their peers, and even more fun to watch the honorees read their cards. I believe that this activity makes students fall in love with their classmates a little bit, just as the article suggests.
At our school, our “High Five” system allows teachers and students to compliment one another on almost anything. When my kids and I sit down to write up these messages, we end up feeling much more positive about our entire school. We watch for reasons to compliment someone.
It’s not just romantic love we can inspire with appreciation and feeling appreciated. It’s love for what we do and those who do it with.
I’m feeling that love. I will try to live up to the compliments.