Words. They’re powerful things. As both a verse from the book of James and a popular song by Hawk Nelson explain
“words can build you up
words can break you down
start a fire in your heart
or put it out.”
The song goes on to say let my words speak life. Speaking life is something that may not come naturally to some people, and then at other times, we may not even be aware of the impact of our words. How do we speak life into someone else’s world? By giving a compliment.
An example of a compliment that worked
As a teacher, I often try to encourage my students, not just in their education but in life as well. I’ve often printed off one of my drawings as a card and given a short encouraging word to each student at either Christmas or the end of the year. 2015 was no different. It was my first year teaching in the school, and I had made some interesting connections with students. One particular one being an eighth grade boy.
Now eighth grade boys are interesting creatures. They not only are different than girls, but by eighth grade they’re starting to try to become men and often are vying for attention and yet don’t necessarily know how best to do that. Most likely than not, they’ll find humor in body sounds and tearing each other down. That year it was pronouncedly worse due to the fact there were only four girls in the class of 17 or 18.
I watched this one boy as he tried to fit in with the rest of the boys, but inwardly I could see the struggle. He really wasn’t a tough dude. He loved the outdoors, hunting and 80’s music and saw absolutely no need to learn Spanish. Even knowing Spanish was a graduation requirement didn’t stop him. He didn’t need to graduate.
By the end of the year, we had developed a rapport and I spent a few moments thinking through what I would say on his card. Little did I know that brief time would impact someone’s life!
A year later, I saw a post on a Facebook wall:
“I don’t know if you guys can read this but I got this last year from my Spanish teacher. This is the nicest thing any teacher has said to me and I truly appreciate that. It actually means alot to me and i have it taped to my wall, and im keeping it because it means something to me. Thank you miss Wyatt”
What made this note so special? There are three things that you can do as well to give a meaningful compliment.
1. Take your time
First off, I took some time to really think through what I wanted to say. I spent time in writing out the message for the student. When you give a compliment spend a moment to figure out what you want to say. Compliments that are given on the spur of the moment, although meaningful, may not have as big of an impact as those that have been thought through.
2. Make it meaningful
Think about it, if you have someone just spouting off words to you, they may not mean anything to you. However, if those words connect with who you are, they become meaningful. In the example above, I knew my student. I considered who he is including the struggles he had that year. I mentioned them in the note and then spoke hope into his specific situation.
3. Make it heard
For my example, I wrote the words on paper. With a student load, it wouldn’t have been reasonable to speak individually to each one, but by writing it down, I could get a message to every teenager. Having a specific time in mind to give the compliment may work as well. If you’re thinking of your own children, then you’ll want to consider when they are receptive to your words. In times of conflict, they won’t be listening as much as if they would in times of peace.
How are you going to use your words? Are you going to give a blessing or a curse? I’d love to hear how it works out for you.