The expansive power of positive words

While criticism may sometimes be necessary, it is much more important to feed each other’s need for love and appreciation

Gerry ChidiacSaint Teresa of Calcutta said, “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

No matter who we are, we like to be appreciated. And being complimented can inspire us to greatness.

As a teacher, I know how important it is to compliment students. Criticism quickly loses its effectiveness and people simply tune out. Sincere compliments, however, never become old. When criticism is necessary, it’s much more effective if we are generally complimentary.

Behaviourists tell us that what is rewarded gets repeated. This is why parents and teachers often see bad behaviour persisting in children. If a child feels neglected and notices that she gets attention for bad behaviour, she will continue to do it. When we can turn this around and reward positive behaviour with positive affirmations, the bad generally diminishes and is replaced by good behaviour.

What is true for children is true for all of us. According to psychologist and researcher John Gottman, the happiest marriages are those where compliments outnumber criticisms by more than five to one.

Research also demonstrates that complimenting others is good for us. It makes us feel good and it boosts our self-confidence. Complimenting others helps us to see the good in ourselves and helps us to realize we have something very positive to share with the world.

Mother Teresa
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Some workplaces frown on employees complimenting their superiors because it’s assumed they are given to gain favour. We need to remember, however, that those in high places also need to know when they are doing well. When the boss feels good about herself, the atmosphere is much more likely to be positive.

Sincere compliments can have a tremendous impact in any environment, and we never know how far-reaching they can be.

Long after I was well established in my teaching career, I began blogging and sending my work to friends. I was pleasantly surprised when several commented on how they appreciated my words. Their words of encouragement gave me the courage to contact my local newspaper to offer to write a column. Again, I was astounded by the wonderful compliments I received, which inspired me to continue expanding my commentaries’ reach through Troy Media.

Today, I can reach hundreds of thousands of people with a message that will hopefully brighten their days and inspire them to let their own lights shine.

None of this would have happened without the kind words of people along the way, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude. How different things may have been if these wonderful people had been silent.

I have always tried to compliment others and create positive relationships with them.

But I never realized the impact I was having until I won a new car in a draw.

The thrill of winning nearly became secondary when I began reading and hearing all the kind words from my community. “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.” “I am so happy that it was you who won.” These words made my heart glow, and I couldn’t help but communicate how much this meant to me.

The Book of Proverbs says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” When we use our words to build others up, we build ourselves up and create a better world for everyone.

Yes, criticism is necessary sometimes. But in our day-to-day interactions, it is much more important to feed each other’s need for love and appreciation.

Troy Media columnist Gerry Chidiac specializes in languages, genocide studies and works with at-risk students. He is the recipient of an award from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for excellence in teaching about the Holocaust.

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The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are theirs alone and do not inherently or expressly reflect the views of our publication.

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