Life is busy and filled with many to-do lists for the people around us. How is it that we often get caught up in accentuating the negative and ignoring the positive things that our spouses or significant others do for us? How different would your life look if you tried to catch your partner doing something right? How would noticing these things improve your relationship?
“I love your new dress!” he gushed with enthusiasm.
“This old rag?” she shrugged. “I found this dress in my daughter’s closet a few years ago. She wasn’t wearing it anymore because it was too old. and she gladly unloaded it.”
Oh, my! Richard finally decides to give Julie a compliment that she’s wearing something besides jeans, and she uses it as a chance to downgrade herself. How can we untangle this mess?
First, Richard’s doing the right thing. He had resolved to stop continually lambasting Julie for her mistakes and faults. He vowed to “catch her doing something right,” and then give her a compliment. He intently focused on their daily life and he actually did see that she was doing some good things. Without criticizing, condemning, or complaining, he started to become aware of her good habits. He wanted to make sure she noticed that he saw the good in her.
What about you? Are you always looking for your partner to make a mistake? Well, if you’re looking for dirt, I believe that you’re probably always going to find some. Even if you think it might be a long shot, just try for a while to live by the motto, “Love greatly, and forgive quickly.” By this I mean forgive the mistakes and move forward. If you have a tendency to put your partner down (even in jest), or invalidate his or her feelings, make a choice to accentuate the positive and change that behavior.
The fault-finding “gotcha game” drives a wedge in relationships. When you don’t think well of your partner and often are critical, you are driving your relationship into the ground. This is not a good path to be on. It leads the opposite way of a healthy, loving relationship.
What is a good alternative?
Giving compliments is an excellent way of validating that your partner doing something right. Compliments are defined as expressions of praise, admiration, recognition, or congratulation. Giving such praise is a good ,way to develop better communication and build trust with your partner. Psychologically, compliments benefit both you and your partner. That is because recognition helps others feel good about themselves. They can feel appreciated and respected. Being appreciated brings out the best in people. It boosts self-confidence and self-worth. Partners perform better when we let them know we appreciate them. It causes shifts in attitudes about the relationship.
Women are never disarmed by compliments. In contrast, men sometimes are. Giving a compliment can be very powerful when you say it directly, smoothly, and sincerely. Don’t wait until later to say something nice. Pay attention, so that you give the compliment directly as you see your partner doing something praiseworthy.
Let’s go back to Julie for a moment. He complimented her, but she got flustered because this was not his usual behavior. If you are the receiver of a compliment, simply say, “Thank you.” It is so easy to thank your partner for a compliment, yet most of us are not very good at it. We often answer compliments by selling ourselves short.
The next day Richard tried again. They were sitting on the sofa, watching an old movie. He took her hand and said, “Your haircut looks great, honey.”
Julie got smart this time. She wanted to say, “That jerk at the salon cut it way too short! He ruined it!” But instead, she decided to look Richard straight in the eye, smile, and say, “Thank you.”
Richard could tell that these responses said a lot about how his partner was feeling about herself. The first day she got flustered, as if she didn’t deserve him to say anything nice. By the second day, she was feeling great to have received his sincere compliment. She was thrilled that he cared enough to notice her appearance.
Whatever you say, your voice must match your sincerity; say it like you mean it.
Genuine compliments, given freely by your partner, reach a special place inside of you. They are a warm reminder of how extraordinary you are to the one who loves you.
Let’s try it! Here are some ideas of compliments we can give our partners:
- admire their unselfishness
- notice a job well done
- acknowledge their sensitivity
- appreciate their determination
- point out their willingness to help
- compliment positive personal qualities or extra efforts
- express thanks for their kindness or thoughtfulness
- congratulate their willingness to share responsibilities
- be grateful for their patience with us!
- if it hadn’t been for you, (fill in the blank)
The “third-party” compliment is always great. By this term I mean a sincere compliment about your partner that you tell someone else. How you speak about your partner to your friends has a lot to do with how your relationship will develop.
To sum up: never miss the opportunity to give a compliment. Start today!