Are compliments ever a bad thing? And how important is the delivery of a compliment? Are people genuinely going over your compliments with a spell checker and thesaurus taking offense to the improper use of has, have, or had? Today Tony tackles the topic of compliments and why it would do us all good to embrace both the giving and the receiving of compliments. Tony references the article "You Probably Don't Compliment Other People Often Enough" by Art Markman Ph.D.https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ulterior-motives/202110/you-probably-don-t-compliment-other-people-often-enough as well as "Scientific explanation to why people perform better after receiving a compliment," from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121109111517.htm
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[00:00:15] Come on in, take a seat.
[00:00:22] Hey, everybody, welcome to episode two hundred and ninety one of the virtual couch. I'm your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and all those wonderful things. And today we are going to talk about compliments, and I am going to give you very solid takeaways. Today, I learned quite a bit about compliments and why we give them and do we give them enough and what the best type of compliment is. So stick with me on this, but let me share what I think was a pretty funny time sink this morning while preparing to record this episode. I got into my office incredibly early. I'm very excited. I love podcast recording day and I am. I'm talking, I'm ready to hit the record button and I find myself wanting to talk about a particular compliment that my wife and I reference often. And we've been married thirty one years now, and it's something to the effect of if you say, Hey, what do you like about me or do you know what I like about you? And one of us just says the other person, Oh, because you like animals and old people and we laugh and we don't explore it much deeper because we've been saying it for so long. So I decided that I would find that quote and I would work that into the episode because that would be kind of fun and nostalgic. But 30 minutes later, I have absolutely nothing.
[00:01:30] I googled it in so many different ways. I googled the actor who I thought said it. I thought it was John Cusack, and I looked for the movie and then all of his movies. And then I quoted specific things and sayings and old people and animals and what I like about you and I just got nowhere. But it led to so many different and I'm just being right off the cuff here in my mind, I thought it led to so many different rabbit trails, which again, now being completely honest. Then I had to Google, is it a rabbit trail or is it a rabbit hole? It has to be a rabbit hole. So I google that. And here's what I came up with is the saying rabbit hole or rabbit trail says used, especially in the phrase going down the rabbit hole or falling down the rabbit hole. A rabbit hole is a metaphor for something that transports someone into a wonderfully or troublingly surreal state or situation. So then I realize I'm not even using the phrase correctly to even find the movie quote that I wanted to use it for that I never found. But I will say that while on my Googling journey, at one point I thought that the quote I was looking for was from the movie Cocoon, and I am literally thinking right now I was about to say, Don't ask me why, but I think it's because the quote that I'm talking about had to do with older people and cocoon as a movie about older people.
[00:02:41] But anyway, it did lead me to find an amazing quote on, dare I admit, Pinterest? Pinterest is a social media thing that I still don't quite understand. I know there are boards and pictures, and sometimes when I Google things, it will take me to Pinterest and I go there and then I need to log into something. But my wonderful assistant, Crystal has connected me with a Pinterest account, which then I admittedly haven't done anything with. So at least this time it just came up, which was fun. But I was there. But here's the quote. The quote said people talk about caterpillars becoming butterflies as though they just go into a cocoon, slap on wings, and that they're good to go. But caterpillars have to dissolve into a disgusting pile of goo to become butterflies. So if you are a mess wrapped up in blankets right now, keep going. And it wasn't attributed to anybody in particular. I absolutely love that quote because I feel like how often are we all feeling a little bit like? We are a disgusting pile of goo wrapped up in blankets? And if so, carry on my friends, because someday there's going to be some wings and you're going to you're going to sprout. I wasn't going to talk about this at all. I was, but I was doing the Peloton over the weekend and it was just pouring rain where I met in Northern California.
[00:03:50] We're talking the reign of the centuries. It hasn't rained this much forever and we went from drought and fires to now rain and the fear of floods and mudslides. And I had someone in my office yesterday saying, Is this end of times? I mean, are you starting to see cats and dogs living together, things that are just signs of the apocalypse? And and I'll tell you the funniest thing. This is going to sound like a first world problem, but we happen to have this big palm tree in the front yard because we live in California and it tipped over a while ago. It tipped over with just a little bit of wind and some rain, and we just threw some really good palm tree soil in there and put some steaks and tied it up, not food steaks, but steaks in the ground. And it's now held in like a champ, and I feel like there's something to be said there. Sometimes we just need to get the right soil under our roots. I really do. I thought about that so much because it withstood the two days of just pouring rain and the ground being soft and moist and and it really hasn't been back in the ground. As long as I thought this was going to be years before it could really withstand the pressure of rain and wind and wet soil.
[00:04:53] But boy, you put the right roots in there, and it had me thinking about doing a whole seminar or webinar on the right roots of a marriage or the right roots of parenting, or the right roots of what you are trying to accomplish or achieve. And because I feel like I have those the parenting model, the nurtured heart approach, or the couple's model, which is the my my four pillars of a connected conversation based off of Sue Johnson's emotionally focused therapy. Or individual models of acceptance and commitment therapy and really starting to just become differentiated and say, Hey, bless the heart of those people who are trying to tell you what to do and think, but this is your journey and you are going to figure out who you are. So I feel like that all that screamed at me when I just looked at this palm tree standing in my front yard. So I hope that you will recognize that you all have this potential to be butterflies. Oh, where was I going with that? Riding the Peloton and there was a Peloton ride about mental health awareness and World Mental Health Day, and it was just amazing. And the instructor was talking about who they are now versus who they were quite a long time ago. And they were talking and not directly saying this, but talking about the fact that if they would have made some big decisions back when they weren't feeling so great about themselves, what a different path that would have led and how really being able to focus on their self care, their confidence, their self-worth put them in a position to then allow them to now go and meet people that they now are connected with or get jobs now that that they really feel a passion for.
[00:06:15] And so often I work with people that are feeling so down in the moment they feel hopeless, they feel stuck, which leads them to feeling like they don't want to do anything. But and it's so hard in that situation. That person can feel so, so stuck, and they can feel like they don't know what to do. And I realize that times I sound I can sound dismissive or invalidating when I say, Man, that's the time to just do. And if somebody says, do what? It's anything other than try to think your way out of that problem, go and do. Go and interact. Go walk, go talk. Go to the gym, go to the mall, go to church, go to a volunteer, go to a meet up group and then your brain is going to say, I don't want to, and I say, absolutely. I understand that you don't want to. And you can even invite your friend. I don't want to to come along with you while you do. And that's one of the best ways to to get yourself out of a rut.
[00:07:04] It may seem counterintuitive because we often feel like we have to think our way out of things. We often think that we have to say, OK, I need to wait until I feel better to then go and do something, even though I don't feel very good now. And the book I referenced so often Russ Harris is the confidence gap. I love that title now. I used to not be a fan of it, but the confidence gap. We tell ourselves that when I'm when I get the confidence, then I'll go and I'll do whatever the thing is. But in reality, I have to go and do the thing in order to build the confidence. And so when we can accept the fact that we're not feeling very good, maybe we're this goo of a future butterfly in a cocoon of blankets that when we accept the fact that, yeah, where I'm at and it makes sense why I feel the way I do, because I've gone through a whole bunch of stuff that I really would rather not have gone through. But then once we accept that, that doesn't mean that now that's our lot in life. But once we accept that now I do feel bad about this and I wish that things were better. Now it's time to take action and go and do do anything. And ideally you go do things that are core to your values or your sense of self or sense of purpose.
[00:08:05] But in reality, even somebody saying, well, don't even know what that is. That's that's another one of those ways that the brain kind of just lobbies for the path of least resistance or to not do things because it can say, Well, we don't even know what to do, and then we buy into that. We say, See, my brain doesn't even know what to do, but don't be held hostage by your brain, especially when things aren't going well in your life or you feel like they could be better. Your brain is trying to protect you. A lot of times your brain says, Let's sleep this one off. It should be better tomorrow, when in reality, that's part of the pattern that's gotten people in the place that they are. So thank your brain. It's in its pink, squishy heart, but maybe try something a little bit different. Invite it your brain to come along with you while you start to do. But I digress, and I think I talked about this on an episode recently where somebody wanted the feedback that I received said they love the show, but I ramble, and then I need to get to the point. At first, back in the day, I would have felt like, Oh man, I better get to the point. But hey, this is my point. My point is that the way we often do with life is we put our sights towards something and then other things come up and then we talk or we deal about those other things.
[00:09:06] So I loved the fact that the person took the time to rate and review my podcast and give me that compliment. I really do. Or even that criticism. They said nice things before that. I'm really grateful for that. But I will say that this is my point that that life does go tangential and it can go in a lot of different directions. And one of the things I love is just that concept of flow, which is what I'm doing right here. But let's get to the episode today. So we're talking about compliments, and there really, really is some interesting information. I'm going to start with a little bit of nerdy. This is from the National Institute of Physiological Sciences and then Re reprinted in Science Daily. And then we're going to go from a little bit nerdy to then a Psychology Today article that puts things together. And then I'll end with some thoughts, so this one might not be too long. So this science daily reported from this National Institute of Physiological Sciences the scientific explanation to why people perform better after receiving a compliment. Japanese scientists have found scientific proof that people doing exercises appear to perform better when another person compliments them. The research was carried out by a group led by the National Institute for Physiological Sciences Professor Nori Hiro Sato.
[00:10:13] And then. There is a lot of other people in there that I'm absolutely going to butcher names Sadako and a bunch of other people professors that did this research. So the team had previously discovered that the same area of the brain, the striatum is activated when a person is rewarded by a compliment or cash. And as a person that has a teenage son in my house right now, this caught my attention right away. A compliment or cash is in the same area of the brain, the reward center that they coincide. So their latest research could suggest that when the striatum is activated, it seems to encourage the person to perform better during exercises. And here's the research. Adults are recruited for a study that asks them to learn and perform a specific finger pattern, so pushing keys on a keyboard in a particular sequence as fast as possible for 30 seconds. And once participants had learned the finger exercise, they were separated into three groups. One group included an evaluator who would complement participants individually. Another group involved individuals who would watch another participant receive a compliment, and the third group involved individuals who evaluated their own performance on a graph period. So no evaluator, no one giving compliments, no one witnessing the giving of compliments. So when the participants were asked to repeat the finger exercise the next day, the group of participants who received direct compliments from an evaluator performed better than participants from the other groups.
[00:11:37] So it indicates that receiving a compliment after exercising stimulates the individual to perform better afterwards. It's almost like it's this cherry on top of the sun, or it's almost this part where you just lock in that performance or that task or the ability to do that task by the compliment is what it seems. So according to Professor Siddhartha to the brain, receiving a compliment is as much of a social reward as being rewarded money. Now again, insert joke there. Let me tell that to my teenage son, but I really. It didn't bring some awareness, though, that I feel like oftentimes people are only motivated by money. But I think this speaks to the fact that money seems like such a tangible thing that it does say, Hey, here's a well done, but to the area of the brain. The striatum receiving the compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money. And Professor Serato said We've been able to find scientific proof that a person performs better when they receive a social reward after completing an exercise. There seems to be scientific validity behind the message praise to encourage improvement. So complimenting somebody could become an easy and effective strategy to use in a classroom or during rehabilitation. And so that that study led to another article. And this is an article from Psychology Today that I think will make this a little bit more tangible.
[00:12:52] This is by Art Marcum, PhD, and this is from Psychology Today and an article called You Probably Don't Compliment Other People often enough and research is. The subheadline says research suggests people don't realize how good compliments make others feel. The key points in this article, it says, are that people underestimate how good compliments will make others feel. People focus too much on phrasing the compliment in the right way. That part is fascinating to me, and maybe this is as somebody with admitted ADHD that I just impulsively can give a compliment. And I don't worry as much about phrasing the compliment correctly. But this makes a lot of sense as I find that a lot of times people say that they want to compliment somebody, but they're not sure what to say. And this just again speaks to how different we are in our own experiences, the way our brain processes data. Because when I hear people in my office say that sometimes in my brain, I think, Well, you're overthinking it, just say the compliment. But I know that it's not that easy for people that struggle with what to say. And then he also says that focusing on the sentiment of the compliment can make it more likely for people to give compliments. So Art said, think back to the last time that you got a compliment from somebody else. It probably felt pretty good.
[00:13:58] Even a stranger telling you that you're wearing a nice outfit can be a nice thing to hear, and then compliments from friends or colleagues or loved ones can be particularly nice to hear, and for that matter, it can feel good to compliment somebody else. But he said that most people don't compliment others as often as they should. A paper in the Twenty Twenty One issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology explored why this happened, so they shared that in one set of experiments, participants were randomly assigned to either generate compliments or to receive compliments. So, for example, in one study, pairs of people walking together in a public park were stopped, and on average, they knew each other for at least around 10 years. One participant wrote out three compliments for the other person that were supposed to be nice things that they hadn't told that person before. Then the Compliment writer predicted how nice the other person would feel, receiving the compliment, and then they also focused on how awkward that person would feel. And in addition, they rated their compliments for how warm they were. That is how nice the sentiment was, as well as how well phrased they were. And then the recipient read the compliments, and then they rated how good they felt receiving them, how awkward they felt, and how warm and well phrased the. It's were, and the key finding was that participants underestimated how good the compliment would make the recipient feel, and they had a control condition showing that people do not underestimate how other people feel in general, which was fascinating.
[00:15:25] So it was specific to the effect of giving somebody this compliment. So reading that again. The key finding was that participants underestimated how good the compliment would make the recipient feel. So if the person giving the compliment wrote down on a piece of paper and they didn't have the exact date, but let's say that out of half out of one one out of 10, if they said, OK, the person, it'll probably mean something around a five or six to them. Well, the person receiving the actual compliment said, now that one, that one felt like an eight, even if it wasn't the most sincere compliment. So it shows that we crave this compliments. We crave hearing others say things that they appreciate about us and I have. I have deep thoughts on this, and it goes way back to the concepts I talk about, often on attachment where when we're born into the world, a baby doesn't even know that they exist. They don't even know they're an entity until they they interact with other human beings, till they're fed, till they're there, their diapers are cleaned or but then they have an interaction with others. And then we are programed from that point to know we exist or that we're alive. So sometimes I feel like we must go throughout our lives.
[00:16:25] Oftentimes, we're just in our own head, so even just receiving a compliment from somebody is almost this just the the subconscious? Just check in with somebody to say, Do I exist? Am I alive? And we want that attention. We want that. We want to know that we we exist, that we matter. And so far better to know that we matter from somebody that is giving us a compliment. Participants also overestimated how awkward the recipient would feel. So again, the first thing that they overestimated was are they underestimated how people would feel in general. So people like receiving the compliments, then they overestimated how awkward the recipient would feel. So the person giving the compliment and again, they don't give the scales on this. But let's say that same model, if they said, you know, I think that people are going to feel really awkward receiving the compliment. But the people receiving the compliment also said, no, I actually don't feel very awkward if it feels pretty good. The third part of that was participants also slightly underestimated how warm the recipients would find the compliment. So people, they really appreciated the compliment. It didn't make them feel as awkward as the person giving the compliment thought. And then the people receiving the compliment also found that they found it quite warm that of getting that compliment from the person giving the compliment. And then finally, participants strongly underestimated how well phrased recipients found the compliment to be.
[00:17:40] So again, they strongly underestimated how well phrased recipients found the compliment to be. So let's dove into what those findings mean. So participants were asked how often they complimented the person they had been walking with, and people systematically said that they give fewer compliments than they think that they should. So it speaks to the fact that we're pretty aware that it would probably be a better world if we were giving more compliments. And this set of findings was replicated several times. It wasn't just this one occasion. So the upshot is that people underestimate the positive impact that a that a compliment will have on others. And art goes on to say that in particular, recipients focus quite a bit on the sentiment expressed, and they're not that concerned with the way it's phrased. And I feel like this is something that in my office we'll talk about where if I if somebody is worried about the way they are going to phrase a text, I have people that will spend so long on text. And but then I will often say, how often do you receive a text? Where then you break down the grammar, or you can't believe that the person didn't capitalize something or didn't have the the correct apostrophe or question mark? And not often people aren't as concerned with the way that something is phrased. So if you're a person who finds yourself not expressing compliments or sharing things that you would like to share with somebody because you're worried about the way it's phrased, then please hear this that this these findings that were replicated several times that was one of the biggest pieces to this was participants strongly underestimated how well phrased recipients, how well phrased recipients found the compliments to be.
[00:19:11] So meaning that people don't necessarily care very much about how it's phrased. It's the sentiment and the fact that somebody is expressing a compliment that really matters. Another study demonstrated that this mis estimation of the impact of compliments affects whether people choose to give them. So in a final study, Art shared that individuals wrote out compliments for another person in their lives, and then participants were directed to focus either on the warmth of the compliment or again on how well phrased it was. And participants who focused on the warmth of the compliment rated themselves later as much more willing to deliver the compliment to the other person than those who focused on how well phrased it was. So it just backs up further that if you're over focusing on how you phrase a compliment, then it makes sense where you are not going to deliver those compliments. And meanwhile, now we've got this data that says, by the way, people love getting compliments and they like them more than we even think they do. So putting these findings together, it says that people miss a lot of opportunities to make other people feel good because they don't deliver the compliments they think of.
[00:20:12] And then he says, and this is such a good summary, a big reason why they don't give these compliments is because they underestimate how good those compliments will make the other person feel. And a big reason why they underestimate the impact of the compliments is because they focus more on executing the compliment and meaning and saying it the right way than on how good the compliment will make other people feel. So in conclusion, he says, if you have a chance to compliment somebody else in your life, you, you should probably do it. Let's talk about this. In conclusion, this is one of those. What do we learn today? Moments that, oh, maybe right now is a real quick. I didn't want to throw things up in the beginning, but my magnetic marriage course with Preston Pug Meyer, we've been saying this for a little while, but the next round is coming in early November. So contact me. You can go to Tony over Bacon and then shoot me an email through the contact form. If you want to find out more information, we're going to hold a webinar. I believe it's going to be next week at some point to just give more details and give a little bit of a preview for the course. This is round three. The first two rounds sold out pretty quickly and but you can just contact me and I'll make sure that you're on that list to find out more.
[00:21:14] And if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, then I will try. And that's at virtual counter at Tony Overbay licensed marriage and family therapist. Then I'm really going to try to do a better job, be more intentional about sharing when the webinar will hit and what that's going to be like. And then I continually forget to mention that Betterhelp.com is a wonderful sponsor of the virtual couch. And if you go to Betterhelp.com virtual account, you get 10 percent off your first month's services, and Betterhelp.com can get you speaking to a licensed professional counselor or licensed marriage and family therapist in your neck of the woods. But but doing so via tele therapy, via phone calls or video chats or texts, or there are so many ways to connect to a therapist, and it's well over a million people. I think it's up to one point five million people have taken advantage of better help services, so don't put that off. They now offer couples counseling as well. So go to Betterhelp.com virtual couch and you deserve to to address some of the mental health concerns. Because it's been a crazy two years, it really has. And as a therapist, I'm a big fan of people going to therapy period, but especially now give yourself a give yourself some grace, take a little bit of self-care and just go and find someone that you can talk to, whether through betterhelp.com slash virtual couch, somebody in your area, whatever you need to do, so do that today.
[00:22:28] All right. In conclusion. Giving compliments It does so much not only for those who you give them to, but I believe it does a lot for the person given the compliment. Why? Because much like the science of gratitude, when people are keeping any type of a variation of a gratitude journal, they're looking outside of themselves and looking for things to be grateful for, which absolutely puts the mind in a state of a positive confirmation bias, meaning that you're looking for more things to be grateful for. So trust me, you are going to find more of what you're looking for. Be it negative or positive. And I know I know the brain and thoughts, and I know that it's more complicated and nuanced than that. But in general, the concept of confirmation bias is so real it is just so real. When I bought my current car, the one I'm driving right now. It was funny once I bought it, man, I see those cars everywhere. And when I started shaving my head long, long ago, all of a sudden, Oh man, there were far more people walking around with shaved heads. So my challenge to you would be to be a bit more intentional about giving compliments with maybe a couple of caveats.
[00:23:28] You cannot expect a compliment in return. You may find yourself expecting a compliment in return, but I would encourage you to give a compliment to make someone's day to help make them feel them feel more confident without expecting something in return. That is next level Zen Master kind of stuff. Give out goodness into the world. We were all doing a bit more of that without the expectation of reciprocity than the overall vibe in the world and the entire universe would amp up. It would be amazing, and I would also encourage you to look for something about the person, not simply their looks or their outward appearance or even their outward actions. The compliment, although trust me, that is a great place to start. But what do you admire about the character of someone else? And you got me thinking a lot. I was thinking about my wife and hands down is the kindest human being that I have ever been around. It's amazing to watch her kindness in action now. Can it be to her detriment? First of all, who am I to say that's her own personal experience? Do I feel like there are times that her altruism or her putting the needs of others ahead of her own may cause her more emotional stress or pain? Sure. But that's my opinion, and it's my experience, and ultimately, I want her to be not. Ultimately, I do want her to be the best version of her, not a version of her, that I would like for her to be, because that would be insanely selfish and self-centered of me.
[00:24:37] And it's exactly the opposite way to have a true connection in a relationship. So we are to you as well in your relationships, your two unique individuals coming together to try and battle the world together. And holy cow, we need to have somebody there with us if we can. The two heads are better than one. One plus one is three. Not not enmeshed, not codependent, but that's a podcast for another day. So if you've made it this far, I can just tell how much I really do appreciate you. And yes, I am complimenting you on this podcast that we are talking about compliments. I know, but it is absolutely sincere and genuine. I know that when I started this podcast five years ago. There were around six or seven hundred thousand podcasts and many that weren't being updated regularly. Now I did a quick Google search while I was Google searching everything else in the world and there are well over two million podcasts. So any minute you spend with me on the virtual couch or on my new podcast, waking up the narcissism is the ultimate compliment to me and and I thank you for that. All right. Taking us away, as per usual is the amazing, the wonderful,
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