How compliments conjure up smiles
The sun shines through the windows of the streetcar into the tired faces of the workers who are finally allowed to make their way home. Everyone is exhausted and silent, except for three young girls who are obviously on their way to the city. I estimate them to be 16 years old. They talk and laugh loudly, so that it fills the whole train car. You can see that the other passengers don’t want to be infected by this. They would rather have had their peace and quiet. An elderly lady sitting across from me has been furtively looking over at the small group the whole time.
After a few stops, she finally stands up and stomps over to one of the three girls: “Excuse me!”. The girls turn and look at the woman in surprise. “I just noticed that they have really nice hair. So full! It’s very rare to see that. Have a nice day.”. She smiles and gets off the train. The girl addressed touches her dark, curly hair, looks at her tips and calls after the old woman another “Thank you, thank you so much!”. Then she smiles beatifically.
The compliment from the grandma was not what the other wagon passengers or I would have expected.
Rather a small rebuke, because of the volume or the like. But this surprised and blissful smile and the joy-beaming eyes of the dark-haired brightened the mood so much more. I now caught sight of other passengers who could hardly keep from smiling when they observed that the girl was still playing with her hair minutes later, twirling it around her finger and stroking the curls behind her ear with her hands.
That little compliment from grandma made the girl happy. She probably still walked around town all day with a grin, proudly looking at her hair in every mirror. And what did it cost the old lady? Maybe a little overcoming. But the shy smile had also rewarded her, because she also got out of the wagon smiling. Compliments are free. They don’t diminish when you hand them out. They are a free and inexhaustible resource of happiness. The more you give them out, the more happiness you get back.
Maybe you get annoyed or angry sometimes when you’re walking around town, shopping, or at work. And maybe the trick is to take the energy out of those negative emotions to overcome them, to give others a good day and let their good mood infect you.