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Be generous with your words.

“Most of us think wonderful things about people, but they never know it. Too many of us tend to be tight-fisted with our praise. It’s of no value if all you do is think it; it becomes valuable when you impart it.” John Maxwell

Have you ever withheld a compliment from someone deserving of one? A study published in Journal of Contemporary Ethnography reports that we withhold flattery for a number of reasons.

1. We are envious of the individual’s accomplishment.

2. We believe our praise will feed an already inflated ego.

3. We perceive the person withheld a compliment from us and we seek to even the score.

What strange creatures we are: jealously judging and punishing others as a way of disassociating ourselves from someone who is worthy of praise. As social creatures, we also notice when someone might be witholding a compliment from us. The study finds that we strain and sometimes sever our relationships simply by this act of witholding. Yes, holding back a compliment can ruin relationships. It leads to distrust and “reveals an undercurrent of hostile and antagonistic sentiments…”

“What is the key to relating to others? It’s putting yourself in someone else’s place instead of putting them in their place.” —John Maxwell

According to psychology professor Samuel D. Gosling, when we fuss over one another, it is for the purpose of strengthening and maintaining bonds. It’s not about the content of our words at all but about maintaining relationships. “[I]t’s about saying ‘Hey, I like you, you like me, we’re all friends. So should the time come, we can rely on each other.’”

Let me see if I have this right. Our insecurity leads us to withhold compliments thus placing ourselves in an even less secure place by separating ourselves from those who are praiseworthy. Isn’t that more than just a little sick?

The answer to all this strange behavior is this: be generous with your words. The success of colleagues does not undermine your own. You possess the power to impact those around you in a positive way, daily. So, give the compliment, press the Like button, forward the email and express your gratitude—in an altruistic way. When we admire someone we do it to show that the world is a better place because of them and we appreciate them. Try it and see if you notice any difference. I’m going to be practicing it too. Write me any reactions or post a comment and let me know what happens! I’ll do the same!

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