I've realized one of the best ways to bring joy into the world is by complimenting people. Not senselessly, not with obvious affectation, but a genuine, honest to goodness compliment. The biggest waste of joy in this world is a good deed left unrecognized.
It's not like this is some sort of major revelation or that I have never thought to compliment someone before. It's just that I think we can afford to do it a little bit more freely, even sometimes in situations where we normally aren't used to doing it. I'm suggesting we go a little out of our comfort zone to deliver a compliment that might make someone's day.
In the last week, I gave two well-earned compliments to people that gave them an obvious measure of happiness that they otherwise might not have had. I was moved by that, so I tried it again, and it worked again. I forced it one more time, and that person was left more puzzled than anything else. So, apparently there is a limit.
The trick is to make it real and somewhat unexpected (though, apparently, not too unexpected). The first compliment went to someone in my life that I felt was being underappreciated. Someone who tried to help others but didn't often hear a kind word for it (sometimes his delivery could use help, but he always meant well). So, I told him I appreciated what he did. And you can see his face light up. Why wouldn't you want to bring someone happiness like that?
The second one was more bizarre but it worked just as well. I was playing poker at a casino in LA, not a place for abundant joy. Most of the people sitting around those poker tables are a miserable lot (only trumped in their misery by the people playing blackjack in the other room).
You don't get a lot of pleasant people at the tables, but this night was different. This one guy was just an absolute sweetheart. In Turkish, there is a saying - he had a clean heart. And he was playing great poker to boot. He read me on a couple of hands and took all my money. This is normally the time when someone in my position would make a surly comment about how he got lucky and deserved none of his new found riches. If you think poker players at these seedy casinos are miserable, wait till you get a load of them after they lose their money.
Instead, I got up (because I had no money left) and went over to shake his hand. I told him played one hell of a game tonight and those were some great calls he made. You've never seen someone so happy at a poker table. It was like he won a million bucks. Because the one thing poker players want more than money is recognition that they played well.
So, what did I lose (other than the money at the poker table, but that was already gone) by giving these compliments? Not a damn thing. It was the easiest thing in the whole wide world. It's certainly no world-changing event for the people who received them either, but it made them happier for some period of time and cost me absolutely nothing. We just added some joy to the world that otherwise would not have been there.
Look, I know I'm too schmaltzy. And my guess is that the women reading this are enjoying it somewhat and the men have decided that my recent marriage is a sham. My close friends have already vomited and will not read my next three columns in protest. But I believe in joy.
So, in closing, to make the skeptics feel better, let me tell you about my final attempt that didn't work out as well. I had the most delicious banana pancakes of my life the other day and my waitress threw in some eggs on the side for a very reasonable price. I was very happy with how it worked out, but also in a hurry. I paid at my table but my waitress was nowhere in sight, so before leaving, I got up, found her and told her how delicious the food was and how much I appreciated her work that morning.
She looked at me like I was from Mars. From the expression on her face, it seemed like she was going to spend the next ten minutes trying to figure out what my ulterior motive was and what this strange man wanted from her.
Lesson learned. If you want to make a waitress happy, don't hunt her down in the middle of the restaurant; just tip her two more bucks. Apparently, society has already worked out this arrangement.
For those of you who are not already physically ill from the corniness of this post and who stuck with me to the end here, I have a suggestion. Try it. See what happens. Give an unexpected compliment today and see the reaction you get. You might not see the reaction immediately and you might never know what that person thinks, but there is very little to lose. And I suspect you might get just as much happiness from it as the person who received the compliment. It's a win-win for everybody. And that doesn't happen that often in this world.
PS -- If you want to let me know how it goes, you can e-mail your story to us after you try it. Send e-mails through our website -- www.theyoungturks.com -- and they will reach me. Thanks.