Have you ever thought about the power of simple words? We can't underestimate how much impact our words have on others. A sentence can make someone's day or crush their spirits. That may sound dramatic, but I can think of examples of both. Hearing I am a great mother puts me on cloud nine, but I still remember feeling despair over petty remarks made by others when I was younger. Use your words for good by developing the ability to compliment. Here are six aspects of complimenting to consider.

1. Who to compliment?

Give compliments freely, but sincerely. If you feel uncomfortable talking to those you don't know, start with family and friends then work up to being able to compliment anyone you meet. I like to compliment fellow shoppers at stores, teachers and school employees, kids I interact with and my friends and family. Giving a compliment to someone who seems to be struggling is especially important to me.

2. What to say

I have a brother-in-law who is a bit socially awkward. Once he pointed his finger at me and said, in a voice void of emotion, "I like your shirt." Despite the delivery, I appreciated his compliment. You can compliment others on almost anything: shoes, hairstyle, talents, abilities and attitude, to name a few.

It's thoughtful to compliment others on things that are important to them. My husband likes it when I admire his freshly-cut green lawn in the summertime. My daughter loves to hear me gush over her latest artistic creation. But if you don't know someone well, compliment him or her on whatever strikes you - a great outfit or winning smile. The woman I spoke to on the phone about an insurance question was particularly kind and helpful, and I made sure to let her know she was good at her job.

3. The reaction

After you give a compliment, watch for a reaction. Sometimes you might get a confused look or tentative smile in response. Other times you'll see a radiant smile and a burst of confidence from the person to whom you were kind. Of course, watching for a reaction isn't necessary, but it will help you realize how positive words lift others.

4. Empowerment

I recently read a quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. She said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." While this may be true, and speaks to having a great sense of personal self-worth, harsh words do cut deep into the emotions of many people. Compliments do the opposite. Somehow when others recognize your strengths and the things you do well, you feel empowered to do more good.

I see this with my children, in particular. A simple compliment like "You sounded so great practicing the piano. Your hard work is really paying off," encourages them to continue trying and working. Compliments also allow the recipients to reflect inwardly and think "Hey, you're right. I am a good friend."

5. Accepting compliments

I, like many others, tend toward self-deprecation when others give me compliments. I think my intention is to come across as humble, but there is a way to accept compliments with grace. A simple "thank you" lets someone know you've heard and accepted their compliment. I'm going to work on being as good at accepting compliments as I am at giving them.

6. Cause and effect

I really enjoy the idea of "paying it forward." Compliments fit well into this way of living life. When you give a compliment, you make someone happy. They are more likely to compliment someone else, or give you a compliment back. Soon a happy wave of compliments and kindness is positively affecting people everywhere.

If complimenting sounds like a habit worth developing, give it a try. Make a goal to give three compliments a day and see how your life changes.

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