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The Power of Praise for Ourselves and Others

I was never good at complimenting a person. Partly because I didn't believe that I needed them. I've come to learn that I do.

One of the next steps in my healing journey is expressing love. I’m rereading things like The 5 Love Languages in the hopes that I can add these practices to everyone in my life. One of the major aspects of love expression is words of affirmation. Something I’m not very good at. Part of the reason was believing that I didn’t need any compliments. Clearly, I needed some form of appreciation. We all do. Simple words of praise can turn a bad day into a good one.

Compliments have been important to us since childhood. Words of affirmation from our parents affirm that we are headed in the right direction as we grow. One would hope that these praises aren’t conditional but given when the parent wants to point out the child’s inherent perfection through speech. That’s probably one of the reasons why compliments aren’t all that effective, at least from my perspective.

What do Compliments Do?

A compliment should show a genuine appreciation for another person. This means the compliment must be honest rather than using your words to butter up another person. It also means that we are complimenting them for their character. Complimenting someone on their looks or the clothes they wear aren’t compliments. In all honesty, they could be points of shame. “I like your jacket” could easily turn into “I wish I had your jacket.” It now puts value on a person because of an article of clothing.

One of my favorite books is How to Be an Adult in Relationships. In this book, the author talks about love being 5 A’s. One of those A’s is appreciation. To have an appreciation for another person, you have to pay attention. Another A focused on in the book. Paying attention is important because we want to create specific compliments. Saying that someone is good, nice, or kind isn’t helpful. It would be great to reference an event where the person you appreciate expresses love towards you or another person.

Give Compliments like Oprah Gives Out Cars

Our praise isn’t special. They should be freely given to everyone. One of the things I don’t like about The 5 Love Languages is that its advice is only regulated to married couples. Words of affirmation transcend romantic relationships. The same praise given to your significant other should go to the person you pass in the parking lot. When you have something nice to say, don’t be afraid to say it. Thinking your loving thoughts is enough, but seeing the other person smile based on your words is incredible.

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