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Aging Matters: Compliments are tonic for the soul

  • Published Monday, Sep. 24, 2012, at 10:22 p.m.

What can you give that friend or acquaintance — or even a stranger — that does a world of good and costs not one red cent?

Easy. A compliment.

It doesn’t come one-size-fits-all. Every compliment must be custom-tailored, personal, unique — and welcome.

Any genuine expression of admiration or appreciation improves the spirits of both the giver and the givee. They work on three different levels: First person. Second hand. Third party. Each is a healing elixir. Tonic for the soul.

Although it’s nice to know that we’re looking good today, it means more when somebody acknowledges what we did or said. Somebody noticed and just had to let me to know. The very fact that they took the time to tell us empowers their words.

Some compliments are shockers, coming from someone we haven’t admired. Did they really mean it, or were they just trying to butter me up? Don’t go there. Stop analyzing; just revel in those kind words. Roll them around in your heart. The lift will buoy you all day.

Second-hand compliments work like this: “I overheard a couple of the guys saying great things about what you did.” Second-hand praise never sounds fake. You know it’s true; who’d bother to make it up?

Third-party compliments are rare and worth every decibel. We seldom hesitate to complain, but how many times do we tell somebody’s boss or supervisor about their employee who’s doing a good job? When someone in any service industry — like food service, housekeeping or repairs — does exemplary work, tell it to their boss. Any savvy boss will pass it back to them and record it in their dossier. Later, if they should happen to foul up, that record might help neutralize their fault. Industry is famous for across-the-board layoffs, and a good mark might help them keep their job. It certainly can’t hurt at their annual review.

A feel-good compliment will surely please the other party’s ears, but if you uttered those feel-good words, that same compliment will just as surely please your own heart.

Phyllis Spade, 87, has made Sedgwick Plaza her home for the past six years. She welcomes your comments at phylace@yahoo.com.

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