Compliments from Strangers

Communication, Leadership, Stories of Kindness

Kindness Has a Lasting Impact

Compliments from strangers are almost always unexpected, but they also tend to stick in our memories for longer. There is something about someone you don’t know going out of their way to validate, acknowledge, or admire.

Giving a compliment to a stranger can sometimes feel uncomfortable. You don’t always know how your message with be received. But if we are genuinely extending kindness to another person, we can feel confident that our gesture will be well received.

Challenging Yourself

Recently, I joined a gym with a lovely pool. It had been years (pre-COVID) since I’d been swimming regularly, and I was determined to swim again.

I am not officially trained. I learned to swim in a backyard pool. I’ve never swum on a team, and I’m not even sure I’ve ever had swim lessons. Maybe one summer, but honestly, I don’t think so.

When I arrived at the gym, I decided that while I love the crawl, backstroke, and breaststroke, I was going to try swimming the butterfly stroke. I love watching professionals swim it but it looked really hard. That morning in the pool was the first time I’d tried it out.

It is even harder than I expected but it felt good, like I was using my muscles and doing something challenging. Coordinating your breathing with the arm and leg movements takes a ton of concentration. But I was determined to keep working on it (on my first day I barely made it one length of the pool.)

A Recent Conversation of Mine

Woman: “You have a beautiful butterfly stroke.”

Me: “Wow, thank you so much.”

Me:” Are you a swim instructor?”

Woman: “No, I was on the USA Olympic swim team many years ago.”

Me: “Wow, thank you so much.”

Woman: “Can I give you one suggestion?”

Me: “Definitely!”

Woman: “Work on kicking your entire leg, moving the leg from the hip rather than bending your knee so much.”

Me: “I will work on that. Thank you.”

I teach about #compliments in my work on #kindness. In my keynote presentations, I share the intangible benefits that honest and genuine compliments from strangers and colleagues can mean for someone. After this exchange, I was simply glowing. I couldn’t believe this older woman had noticed my butterfly stroke AND chosen to mention it to me.

The Ripple Effect of Kindness

This conversation happened two weeks ago, and I am still smiling. I started thinking immediately, that she had absolutely no idea who I was, that I speak about this, and that her compliment completely lit up my day, my entire week. I’ve thought about it again the last few times I’ve gotten back in the pool and worked on my kick, even watching some YouTube videos to learn more techniques as well.

Yesterday, in the pool a gentleman in the next lane told me. “I love seeing you do the butterfly stroke. You’ve inspired me. I’m going to give that stroke a try myself.”

Kindness and compliments have a #rippleeffect. As much as people like to think we are all separate, we are not. We are all connected.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of your words. Kind words said to a friend (or stranger) just might be the reason they keep doing something – even something hard and challenging like the butterfly stroke.

Have you received compliments from strangers you still remember today? Join the conversation with us on LinkedIn.