The Power of Compliments

In the sixth grade Mrs. Johnson made our class pass around a “compliment card.”

The instructions were simple: When you hold the card, you may compliment someone else in class. When you receive a compliment, you simply respond by saying “Thank you.”

The task was much more challenging than it sounds. Turns out twelve and thirteen year old girls don’t handle compliments well.

Our class of 20 girls sat in a circle a few times a week and desperately tried to accept compliments. It was painful. Responses ranged from:

“Oh no, I think my hair looks terrible, I mean, thank you,” and “I’m glad you liked my story, but I thought I did poorly, but thanks,” to girls who broke out in tears. Keep in mind, Nashoba Brooks girls are smart, competitive, strong young women, so there was nothing “wrong” with us, other than we didn’t know how to take a compliment.

Over the course of sixth grade and hundreds of compliments we learned to say thank you. We also learned that everyone benefit when we’re kind and that it’s okay to be good at something. There is no doubt in my mind six grade was a huge success because of Mrs. Johnson’s compliment card. All too often I compliment someone, usually another woman, only to have her tell me why my compliment is wrong and why she doesn’t deserve it. Try to just say “Thanks!”

This story reminded me of Mrs. Johnson’s valiant effort with Nashoba Brooks middle school girls. I wish I could tell her it was one of the best lessons I learned in school. I’m sure she’d respond by saying, “Thank You.”



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