I’ve been complimenting people more often lately. I’m not sure how it started or why, but if I like the cashier’s braids or the barista’s necklace I have been saying so out loud instead of keeping these thoughts to myself. And my natural instinct is definitely to keep it to myself.
I do not go out of my way to engage people in real life, which is probably why it’s easier for me to make online friends than real-life friends. I know that I should be friendlier and talk to the people around me about the weather or the cute dog they are walking or whatever, but dude, it’s so not me. When I moved to my new apartment, I told myself I should be friendly and introduce myself to everyone I saw coming and going. Make new friends, Jennette! New friends! This lasted for about a week until I reverted back to the murmur-hello-and-avoid-lingering-eye-contact mode that I’m usually in. I wish I were one of those people who find it easy to talk to anyone and everyone, but I am not. I’m more like my cat, Java Bean, who runs to hide under the bed whenever someone who isn’t me stops by.
I seem to be ok giving people compliments though. I still have to deliberate for a few seconds about it, as if it requires great courage to speak to a stranger. Should I tell her that her tights are cute? Should I? Ok, I’ll do it! I figure everyone likes getting compliments, so it’s a low risk exercise. I vividly remember compliments I’ve gotten, like the lady at the coffee shop who liked my red sneakers and the checkout lady at the grocery store who liked my gray top with the zippers on the shoulders. Tell me I am pretty and you are so totally my new best friend. I’m so easy, it’s disgusting, really.
The key is to be sincere. Don’t say something unless you genuinely mean it. I also figure, why keep nice thoughts to yourself? There’s a lyric in an old Ben Folds Five song, The Last Polka that goes, “The cruelest lies are often told without a word/The kindest truths are often spoke and never heard.” I wouldn’t say it’s a cruel lie not to tell the barista you like her necklace, but there’s no real reason to keep it to yourself. So why not say a kind truth and let it be heard?