It’s so easy to remember the critics in our lives – the reprimands and challenges and the heaviness that rides along. One of my least appealing personality characteristics is a tendency toward judgement. I don’t mean to but if left unattended, I might spend my entire day thinking about feedback I’d love to offer but don’t dare deliver. There’s nothing worse than unsolicited input. This I know to be true.
My sometimes judgey-attitude and needless filtering…the quickness to classify and label is a by-product of neanderthal needs for safety. Adopt the group mindset. Don’t stand out. Birds of a feather…flocking together…Except all of that group-think nonsense is counterproductive to being our best, unique selves and celebrating individuality.
What nurtures growth and promotes positivity? An honest, heartfelt compliment which calls out what’s special about each of us. With all the ‘likes’ and ‘following’ going on in the world, an old-fashioned I see you and you are fabulous…goes a long way toward soothing the bumps and bruises we all collect. Just by living.
As I mulled this over today, I challenged myself to summon an impactful compliment – offered honestly, authentically, freely and it took me a minute. Not gonna lie. When my roundabout memory finally sifted out the clutter, I recalled a colleague who offered praise a few years ago. As I think about what he shared, I can’t help but smile. His exuberance – about me – lifted me up – at least three feet from the ground. I floated for a few hours after.
Let me set the scene. “Rob” (not his real name) and I volunteered at an employee barbeque. You know the type; intended to promote team spirit and boost morale with a spread of ribs, chicken and burgers. (Side note: This was a terrible job for me. I ‘over-portioned’ every single plate and was the messiest ‘guest chef’ ever, which created the unintended entertainment portion of the event: Watching Vicki juggle plates overly laden with grub.)
Rob was my ‘guest chef’ partner and we met just once or twice before. He was the newbie and I was the long-tenured veteran…with the aforementioned sloppy serving skills. After he repositioned my lopsided chef’s toque (fancy name for the big stove-pipe head gear, I learned) the good time vibes were rolling and they didn’t stop.
Why? Rob could not believe I knew each person in line – by name. Maybe we served 100 folks, give or take. I served “the meats” and Rob did the sides and as colleagues moved through the line, I greeted each and introduced Rob (because most had yet to make his acquaintance). It was easy. It was fun.
But part way through, Rob pulled me aside while the actual chefs were restocking the steam table and said, “Who are you? Never in my life have I seen someone handle introductions the way you do. You know everyone by name plus tidbits about their families, their jobs, where they work, what they do. You’re like magic and I want to be you.”
We were pretty sweaty at this point. Did I mention it was an 85-degree day? The combo of the hot food, the steamy weather? I was already a wringable, soppy mess and Rob’s sweet and heartfelt comment triggered more moisture – tears. As they rolled down my cheeks, I imagined (hoped) it looked like more sweat than emotion, but inside, I was flying. The sincerity of his compliment shook me. Not because it was necessarily true but because it WAS my intention to acknowledge and connect as many people as possible that day. And he saw me.
Here’s to being the light. Barbeque or wherever.