Kindness is a superpower. It can improve relationships, make life better, and transform our culture. And if you want to be a kind person, the quickest way to get there is to build a habit of praising others regularly. In fact, finding things to praise about the people in our lives is so important that it’s one of the three daily actions I shared in The Kindness Challenge that can make a huge difference in any relationship.
But here’s some surprising news: we aren’t actually as kind as we think we are! We may think we already have the habit of praising people … but we probably don’t. We don’t express affirmation nearly as often as we think.
The good news is the simple act of showing appreciation for people out loud is something we can learn to do. And it is part of building an atmosphere of kindness in our lives that has a major impact on everyone around us… and ourselves.
Keep your eyes open for praiseworthy things.
Our family was at a Fourth of July fair with games, music, food booths, huge inflatable slides and obstacle courses. I was standing in line with my then-twelve-year-old son, waiting for him to go up the massive Cliff Hanger slide, when we heard terrified sobbing from the very top. A little girl had climbed up and was stuck—she was too scared to slide down. After unsuccessful attempts to persuade her, her father made the very awkward (for an adult) climb to the summit, with a crowd of at least forty people silent and watching below.
Suddenly the woman next to me blurted out, “I think this must be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.” She turned to all the people around her. “When he comes down, y’all better clap! I hope everyone claps for this man!”
Up above us, the dad gathered his tearful little girl into his arms. With her face buried in his shoulder and her arms around his neck, he gingerly began climbing back down the almost-vertical staircase with her clinging to him like a front backpack. And with one voice, the crowd below started clapping and cheering. The dad was startled, then started grinning. You could tell the accolades made his day.
When the commotion died down, I asked the woman beside me, “Is he your husband?” “No, no,” she said with a laugh. “I just try to make it a habit to encourage people, you know? It has to be a habit. Otherwise, it doesn’t happen.”
We need to build the habit of praising others out loud.
It has to be a habit. Otherwise, it doesn’t happen. So true! I had stood there at the base of the slide with thirty-nine others. Every single person probably thought: That’s a great dad. Yet only one brought up the fact that we needed to say it out loud.
Thankfully, if you begin to offer praise out loud, the rewards are so great that you’ll easily build a true habit. As you do, remember that praise goes far beyond “Good job” and encompasses whatever makes the people in your life feel affirmed. “I’m grateful for your candor.” “Honey, they loved your presentation.” “You’re a wonderful mom.” “You make me so happy.” “You are so good at keeping us on task, thank you!”
And ladies, you might want to know that the words “thank you” are especially life-giving for men. In my book For Women Only, you can see more about how “thank you” is a man’s equivalent of “I love you.”
Praising others makes us more thankful for what we have.
It’s easy to understand the importance of praise and affirmation as components of kindness. But still, our praise may not always be spoken out loud. One subtle, sneaky reason is that we may feel entitled to whatever the other person is doing for us. As Jeff said, “I think we sometimes feel: You owe this to me. I deserve what you’re doing. This means that one reason we don’t praise is pride . . . it is easy to forget that we really don’t deserve anything. Everything God allows us to have is a gift, right? So, it is all praiseworthy.”
As we practice praise, we build others up, but we also become more and more grateful for all that we have—and we start to see even more things to be grateful for. Building the habit of encouraging others shifts our focus from inward to outward. It keeps us on the lookout for good and makes us eager to call attention to it.
So, let’s roll up our sleeves and put our intentions into action. Who can you praise today? Keep your eyes open. Take the admiration that you think and feel about someone and express it to them in words. Keep looking. And keep praising. Those small steps of kindness can begin to transform your relationships … yourself … and the world around you!
This article was also published at Patheos.
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