The Sephardic Heritage Museum Explores THE LIFE AND ESCAPE of the JEWS OF SYRIA

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By: Mozelle Forman, Lcsw

Anna and Mike were having a disagreement in my office.

Anna: He never tells methat I look nice and I really need to hear that from him.

Mike:I’m just not the type to give compliments. It isn’t my thing.

Anna:What does that even mean? What’s the big deal if every once in a while you say, “Honey, you look nice.”

Mike:I can’t be fake. I have to really mean it.

Anna:(incredulously) So – you mean to say that I’ve never looked good in the six years we’ve been married?

I decided this was a good place to intervene and save Mike from a night on the couch.

What Anna was expressing was the very basic, human desire to be noticed, appreciated, and complimented. Being recognized for what we do – or who we are – just feels good. It’s wonderfully confirming, reassuring, and validating to know that someone has noticed the good in us. Most of usthrive on compliments precisely because they can encourage us and allay our fears and self-doubts.

This is true for both males and females. Contrary to the male claim that compliments are part of the female vernacular and that men don’t need them, most men express a desire to be respected and admired, and they too thrive on recognition. Men may not need to be complimented on their looks or clothing, but they do feel a jolt of pride when complimented on a job well done, or appreciated for the work they do on behalf of the family.

Psychologists have studied the effects of compliments in relationships and have found that compliments are bonding, motivating, and persuasive.

When you give a compliment you are sharing something about another person that you find appealing. You express admiration or recognition of a positive act or character trait and that immediately elicits positive feelings in the other person toward you. Everyone likes to be around people who think well of them.

Compliments are powerful in motivating continued efforts. People strive to do more of what brings praise from others.

Compliments create an atmosphere of acceptance, and lower the other’s resistance to your advice or suggestions for improvement. They will be more likely to hear your suggestions as helpful instead of critical if they believe you think well of them.

While people benefit from receiving compliments, we also benefit
by giving them. The first element of giving a compliment is noticing (you have to see the good before you can comment on it),which helps us develop an “ayin tova” an eye that sees good. Consciously deciding to be complimentary forces us to notice when someone looks good, has done a good job, or has achieved something important. Because we see the other person in a good light we will feel closer to them, and whatever is negative about the other person will not be so prominent in our minds. So what’s the best way to give a compliment?

For the greatest impact, make compliments specific, and tailored to the receiver. For example, if your wife prides herself on being a good cook, the most genuine and well received compliment will be about her culinary creations.

When complimenting, avoid effusive, global compliments and make them specific to the situation. For example, instead of saying, “you are the greatest cook” say, “That apple cake looks amazing. I can’t wait to taste it.”

In order for a compliment to create a bond, it must be genuine. People are very perceptive, and are highly sensitive to traces of insincerity. Compliments have a magic effect if they are sincere reflections of what we think and if they are given freely.

While learning to give a complimentis an art, being able to receive a compliment is a skill many of us have not mastered. There is only one way to receive a compliment – graciously and with a smile. Don’t fall into the trap of automatically discounting or denying compliments. This type of response instantly invalidates the giver’s judgment, and might make them feel stupid for noticing and commenting.

Receiving a compliment allows us to see a different version of ourselves. How we think and feel about ourselves is highly subjective, and is very often hyper-critical. When we allow ourselves to accept and believe the compliments we receive, it can be powerful enough to transform our feelings about ourselves.

Give sincere compliments frequently, accept them graciously, and notice the impact this has on your relationships.