Apr 30, 2022

"I Keep A List of Nice Things People Have Said"


’m not sure about you, but I look at my calendar ahead of time, and sometimes the day of, and scan. That’s a tough meeting. That’s gonna suck. And sometimes ‘yay!’.

I had a **Yay! Meeting** the other day. She is a wonderful human.

For context, she is highly organized and more intelligent than you, me, and the six other people who read my blog combined. We spent more time than we should unpacking her productivity hacks. The structure of her email, the subfolders, and her use of categories. She has even set up her autocorrect to make typing repeated words faster.  I stand in awe. No, I bow down to the productivity goddess.

She also keeps a ‘compliments’ folder. I’m not sure if that is what she calls it, but it doesn’t matter. She takes all the nice things people say to her and files them in one of her folders. When she needs it, she goes back there and reads it. First, she is good. I do not doubt that this folder is content-rich. Two, what a good idea. Gosh. It got me to thinking.

Compliment List

When you plugin and you don’t want to do the work, open that folder. When you blow it and question your life, open that folder. When you want to quit, open that folder—reminders of when you made people’s lives better, easier, and more joyful.

It is easy to default to focusing on what is wrong. What do we need to improve? The 99% you got right doesn’t matter. How we get that last 1%? It is easy to focus on what we need to improve or our latest mistakes. We forget the superpowers we bring to the team.

What if we all did the following: 

1. Find someone every day and give them a sincere and specific compliment.
2. When someone gives a sincere compliment a) LISTEN (no, really listen) b) file it somewhere you can go back and remind yourself that people think you are pretty incredible.

What if each day you gave someone a specific and sincere compliment? What if they actually listened? What if 7.9 billion people did that? 

Confidence Vs. Perfection

I get asked for my opinion/approval as part of my work. It happens at home too but in a much subtler way 😉. My humans are asking for my opinion, and I have a decision to make. (And to be clear, sometimes I think they are asking for my opinion, and they aren’t really 😶)

There is no doubt that if you are older, wiser, or more experienced, you can help someone improve. Their product, their idea, or their life. When do we stop short of telling them where it can be marginally better and say, ‘you nailed it.’ When does it become more valuable to build their confidence vs. try for perfection?

Humans Matter

Slow down, there is a human on the other side. What do they need from you right now? They likely put everything into this work, effort, thought, and life. Do they want your feedback or your applause? Feedback done well does both.

Honesty Matters

First, be honest. If they can’t trust you as someone who will tell them the truth, you aren’t helpful. If it’s not good, you have to tell them. If it’s terrific, you have to tell them. You owe it to them, and everyone on the team, to be kindly honest. If your input only makes it marginally better, consider the impact that building their confidence will have on future work. 

Specificity Matters

We tend to be specific on negative feedback and general on positive feedback. A dear friend gives me feedback on the things I produce. He does a wonderful job of being particular about what he likes. This line, this shadow, that phrase. If he liked it, he tells me exactly why he liked it.

Confidence Cup

I’m a big fan of the book the Five Love Languages. The concept of filling someone’s love cup through the various languages (quality time, acts of service, etc.) is central. I wonder if there is another cup we should be thinking about: the confidence cup.

When do we ever get to a point where we don’t question our ability on something? I doubt whether I’m good at things I’ve done for 20 years. I’m sure I’m not alone. If it is something new that self-doubt monster is even louder. For creative efforts, like art, that monster is the loudest.

Ultimately, this all comes down to our role in people’s lives. What do they need from us today? Do they need a critic or a fan? Where are they in their confidence journey? It is a delicate balance because anyone serious doesn’t want your platitudes; they want your feedback and they need to know you care deeply about them as a human.

We all have enough self doubt, my silence doesn't help you.


Sincere Compliments: Give one each day and save the ones you get.
Feedback: We tend to be specific on negative and general on positive. Always be specific.

I'll leave you with a few thoughts from others

False friendship is the worst. Avoid it at all costs. If you're honest and straightforward and mean well, it should show in your eyes.  It should be unmistakable. -Marcus Aurelius

“Clear thinker” is a better compliment than “smart.” - Naval Ravikant

I know I’m ready to give feedback when I’m ready to sit next to you rather than across from you. - Brene Brown

A Moment

Thinking back to spending way too much time taking photos of flowers up close and the spring that is springing now.

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