Compliments are like protein: it’s difficult for us to grow without them

The power of a simple compliment can last a lifetime. A stray comment by Mrs Begato, my teacher at junior school in 1981, made me an artist:

“You hold the paintbrush really well, like an proper painter”

Most of the positive things we believe about ourselves come from small compliments that provide the evidence we need to build our confidence in any given area.

Something weird happened to me last week. I wrote my blog, as I do every week and posted it as normal. Since it’s promoted with a link on Facebook and Twitter, I usually see one or two views straight away, which grows over the following day to between 30 and 150. I might even get an odd comment or ‘like’.

But this time, minutes after I posted, 87 people had read it. An hour later it has risen to 200. People were reading it at a rate of 1 per minute. I received an email from WordPress to say that I’d been selected from 650,000 blogs published that day as the one to be awarded ‘Freshly Pressed’. It meant that my post, with a picture was on WordPress’s front page as the most recommended read of the day.

The views went up to 3500 over the next 24 hours. The next day I was still featured on the front page, but just not at the top and another 1000 people read the post. The same happened the next day and the next.

But even better than the 8000+ people who have now read my blog this week, even better than the 200+ who ‘liked’ it and the 2300 who now follow my posts, were the comments.

To date, there have been 164 and oddly, and wonderfully, every one of them was positive.

I couldn’t believe it. Only two posts ago, I’d written an article about ‘the imaginary audience’ and yet here I was actually having a real audience and they were enjoying what I’d written. In many of the comments, the readers shared their memories and thoughts on the topic, but most had something extra: a positive compliment on my work.

Such a massive pat-on-the-back from people I don’t know, from all over the world is a humbling and empowering experience.

The blog was about John Lennon and the Beatles. You can read it (and the comments here).

Here’s a few of the personal comments:

“That was beautiful :’) I applaud you.”

“Thanks for your post. It’s beautifully written and expressed.”

“This was such a touching story to me. I really liked reading about the effect this experience had on you.”

“Great writing.”

“Just read this and cried… You brought me right back to that day and time I heard the news..”

“Great post! You nailed the Beatles-love man! While reading this blog it did feel like they lived again for a while.”

“Your blog brings a smile to my face, Ayd. You have an amazing post & story posted here.”

“Beautifully written.”

I had comments on my artwork too:

“That’s some pretty good artwork for 16!”

“Wonderful post… P.S: You have such a gift of drawing .. It looks amazing .. Kudos.”

“Those are some excellent art drawings!”

“Your artwork (at 16) was phenomenal. nicely done! thanks for sharing…well written blog!”

So how do you think I felt after reading those?

How do you feel when someone says to you, “well done”? Or even better, praises something particular, something definitive that you were wanting the achieve (in my case to write an emotive, interesting blog)?

The best metaphor I can think of is that a compliment is like protein: we can survive without it, but will slowly, slowly waste away: we need it to grow, to build up and to become stronger and better.

So many of us are under nourished, perhaps even suffering from malnutrition when it comes to compliments.

A well placed compliment inspires. It costs nothing to the giver but is more valuable than gold to the recipient.

So what should we do? I suggest we make dishing out compliments a habit. Throw them out there whenever and wherever we see something worth commenting on. If you are pleased with something someone has done, or notice something someone has created or enjoyed something someone has produced, don’t keep it to yourself, release the gift and say what you really think in a positive, supportive and friendly way. It’s actually quite simple.

People like people who like them. Compliments create networks of enthusiasm that can mutually lift us all to greatness.

A compliment can turn a ‘like’ into a ‘love’, an acquaintance to a friendship and a friendship to a life-long relationship.

A compliment can turn the spark of attraction to an eternal flame of togetherness.

(I’d like to thank WordPress for their gift of making me Freshly Pressed and all those who read and those who commented on my post.

If you want to be in a position to be ‘Freshly Pressed’ by WordPress, read their guide to what they look for here.)

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

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11 comments on “Compliments are like protein: it’s difficult for us to grow without them

  1. Hear Hear!
    I always give a compliments when I have received good customer service or someone has done something I really liked.
    I think it is important to say exactly what you liked and the impact it had on you. This way the recipient knows what part of what they did had a good impact on you.

    “I really enjoyed your talk on Tuesday it was engaging, well crafted and made you stand out as a speaker I will remember (for all the right reasons!). You have inspired me to think differently about writing a book for my business and I keep finding myself thinking about how I might structure such a book.
    I also thought of you when listening to Matt Smith talking about the Dr Who Christmas Special on Five Live this afternoon. Dr Who might never be the same for me again!”


      • Ayd, Dr Who insiders on Five Live didn’t give much away but said enough to make me intrigued about the Christmas special. It is based around a family in a house. They also said that they were looking forward to there being a film, but assured listeners that any film would include whoever is the current Doctor in the TV series.
        Have a great Christmas break. I Iook forward to hearing more about your ideas and discovering what synergies there might be between us.


    • Lenny’s a genius. You remember when Oxford Polytechnic became Oxford Brookes University and they asked the students who they wanted as chancellor: they wanted Lenny Henry. We were all ignored of course and got Helena Kennedy (who the students hadn’t even shortlisted).


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