The currency of a compliment

The currency of a compliment

24 Jan 2016

Can I say something without it sounding creepy?" I was recently asked over WhatsApp by someone I'd just met.

"Can I say something without it sounding creepy?" I was recently asked over WhatsApp by someone I'd just met.

Don't worry. This isn't some cautionary tale about a text gone wrong.

"Go for it," I replied.

Ben texted back within seconds: "Thank you for making my day!"

A few hours before this exchange, I'd attended an event for NGOs where I met Ben. Like me, he's a community manager, building and communicating with an engaged network of passionate, committed individuals on social media.

The cause he campaigns for is one that's very close to my heart and Ben does a brilliant job rallying the community he's painstakingly building.

He communicates with them effectively, genuinely and constantly. The work he does can be thankless – very few know or see the energy, time, quick thinking and empathy that go into managing social media platforms, or what those relationships can yield. But Ben does it, and he does it well.

I told him all of these things, completely unprepared for his response.

"It was so, so needed," he shared later.

But what exactly had I done? Not much. It took two minutes and zero effort for me to tell a peer that I saw and appreciated the work he was doing. But for Ben – and, I expect, for many of us – it was enough.

It's so easy to overlook the power of genuine appreciation.

We often assume, for example, that our colleagues already know they're doing a good job; that our friends already know they're important to us; that our families already know how much we love them.

But inadvertently making a difference with a few observations made me think: what if, every day, we each told someone who means something to us how much we appreciate them?

What would the world look like if we all made it a point to regularly tell the people in our lives: I see you. I appreciate you. You're making a difference. This company would be poorer without you. My life would be less good without you.

Paying compliments might not end wars or end poverty or cure cancer. But it can create joy, nurture friendships and give hope. It can inspire us to do good.

Ben and I are going to explore working together, to create more positive change in both our communities.

It was his idea, because he sees the work I do, too. And that made my day.