One of my favorite things about NYC are the eccentric people that you see. Over the top outfits. Off the wall hairstyles. Handcrafted jewelry from any and every material. Pretty much any way that a person can accentuate their individuality, can be seen on the streets of New York and I love it. I love people's excitement and ability to proudly showcase who they are on the inside.
So during a recent day trip down there I dared myself to take on the daunting task of complimenting people. That's right - boldy complimenting complete strangers. This has been something that I've been attempting to do more of recently....and despite the always awkward internal negotiation as to what tone to use, how to get their attention, and how to specifically phrase the compliment- what I have found, un-suprisingly, is that people love to be complimented.
Regardless of how strong or confident a person may appear - you never know what is going on inside. Doubts, fears, worry, bad days...despite all of the internal struggles that people face, and usually because of these internal struggles, people need told that they are loved, acknowledged, looked up to, cared for, noticed, or special. So I have embarked on a journey to do just that. Tell people good things about themselves.
My first trial at this was in a hotel lobby bathroom. At the sink there was an older woman in a lovely dress who was (as many women do) adjusting everything to ensure that the dress fit her properly prior to returning to what I assumed to be a wedding. After staring out of the corner of my eye for a good 15 seconds I finally pulled out the nerve to say "you look beautiful in that dress". The woman turned to me, immediately beaming, no longer adjusting straps and returned the most sincere 'thank you' that I have ever heard. Maybe her date neglected to tell her how lovely she looked, maybe she was stressed about meeting new people in an awkward social situation, maybe she had on an uncomfortable bra....or maybe everything about her day was going perfect...all I know was that I left that bathroom feeling good about giving her a smile.
Later in the day I told a teenager that I admired her rainbow eye-shadow. A style I could never 1-artistically draw or 2-pull off, but she was rocking it perfectly...and I wanted her to know that her efforts were noticed.
I realize that its easy to fall into the trap of complimenting people purely based on looks or outfits but I challenge you to be a bigger person that than. I tried to tell talented street performers that I really was moved by their music or skills. A man that helped an elderly woman across the street, I acknowledged and thanked him for his kindness. You can compliment people for having well behaved children, for giving up seats to the elderly on the train, for helping you pick up things you drop, or merely for them having a smile that brightened your day.
There is almost always a way to find a reason to share a compliment with a stranger. Next time that you are awkwardly in a checkout line, waiting for a stall to open in a bathroom, or walking by something special, lovely, or that lifts your heart - I challenge you to not just note it in your head but to share the adulation with that stranger.
Maybe if we all address our love for one another's incredible individuality - we will all be a little happier.
What are other compliments you have shared with strangers? What other opportunities do you see for improving your kindness to strangers?
Believer that everyone is special.