The Power of Compliments

In the summer of 1944, a small city in Virginia, known as Bedford, lost nineteen soldiers on June 6th. These soldiers were killed while storming the beaches in Normandy during the infamous D-Day offensive. One of those soldiers killed in the first few minutes of the invasion left behind a young wife named Ivelyn Schenk. At the time Mrs. Schenk was an elementary school teacher. A month after losing her husband a first grade student named Booker Goggin wrote her a letter.

It read, “Dear Mrs. Schenk, I am sorry to hear about your husband. I wish I could come to see you. I hope you will be my teacher next fall. With love, Booker.” The power of compliments and wishing someone well can change a person’s life forever. Mrs. Schenk later said that Booker’s letter helped keep her going during this difficult time.

With life beginning to speed up for many of us with finals approaching, tax season, and what not, we often pass by those who are suffering like Mrs. Schenk. We have the power to change anyone’s life and many of these actions take only minutes.

For my Public Relations Writing and Production class, the entire class was required to prepare a two to three minute persuasive speech, read it from a teleprompter, and answer thought provoking questions from the class. One of my classmates, Tawny Tanner, gave a persuasive speech on the power of compliments that stuck with me. For her speech, she used a staggering statistic. She said, “The average AT&T user sends 60 texts a day. There are around 8 billion text messages being sent everyday and 92,000 text messages being sent every second.” After sharing that statistic, she stated, “Now, imagine if all of those were compliments.” Think of how much happier our world would be if all 8 billion of those text messages were compliments.

In mid-December of 2010, I was a volunteer missionary for my church in Albany, Georgia. My companion and I were walking up to a house in the poorer part of Albany to see a man we’d talked with previously. As we approached his home, we heard a fiery argument taking place. The man’s wife had just discovered he was cheating on her. You could hear her cussing up a storm, throwing items around the house, and yelling at their yapping dog to be quiet. We watched her storm outside, slam the front screen door, and drop a few more choice words to her husband. The fellow missionary and I stood in the front yard, frozen with terror, not quite sure how to react. This lady saw us, shot us a glare, and demanded to know what we were doing. As I tried to explain to her that we were just visiting, the next thing I remember is the other missionary and I being pushed off the front yard by this lady and a run-down, light blue pickup truck stopped in front of their house. The lady was obviously going with this driver to escape the marital issue at hand for a short time or maybe even permanently. As she was about to hop into the truck, she turned to face us again. I couldn’t understand anything she was saying because she was so upset. When she finally stopped and stood there, glaring at us, I just smiled, waved, and said, “Merry Christmas, m ‘am. Love you.” The lady stopped. I watched tears fill her eyes. Her voice breaking, she quietly said to me, “Merry Christmas to you too, hon. Love you too.” She then hopped in the pick-up truck and we watched it drive away. We never saw her again.

I didn’t share that story to brag about what an amazing person I am but just to show the great power that compliments do have on the lives of those around us. Look for the good that each person possesses. Let them know what you admire about them and encourage them to keep going when they are struggling. Compliments can truly brighten someone’s day when life seems to be nothing but a storm. Don’t ever underestimate the power of a compliment. They are stronger than you may think. Try giving out more compliments than usual to those around you and you will see what I mean. By doing so, you can bring more sunshine into this dark world.

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