Help Others Reduce Stress and Increase Self-Esteem

Business woman giving thumbs up

How many things can you think of that are free, make people feel better, and empower the giver? I can only come up with a few, and they all involve saying something nice. I’m not suggesting you lie, but if you pay attention, there is almost always something heartfelt and positive to say.

Who doesn’t like hearing praise? Whether it’s about your style, intellect, taste, talent, wit, car color, organizational skills, sense of humor, creativity, hobby, or anything else you do, someone saying something nice could make your day and boost your self-esteem.

Don’t Just Think It, Say It

So, why aren’t we all complimenting each other all the time? Some people seem to think compliments take something away from the giver. Others feel self-conscious. Saying something kind can empower both the giver and receiver. With practice, it can become second nature. In addition, every time you point out something positive, you will likely get an extra dose of joy from the delighted reaction on someone’s face.

I’m not suggesting you pile on the compliments. They have to be heartfelt, honest things you genuinely appreciate. If you’re seeing your new friend’s place for the first time and it’s painted in your least favorite color, comment on the creative use of space or how bright and cheerful it is. There is usually something positive you can say.

Imagine what the world would be like if every time someone had a loving or generous thought, they said it. Would you be happier if people noticed and commented on your strengths and talents?

The Effects of Positive Comments Might Surprise You

Never underestimate the power of a kind word on stress. A few years ago, I was in the supermarket. A middle-aged woman was trying to decide which product to buy, and she was all dressed up. I noticed, hesitated in complimenting her—I thought she might think I was weird—but went ahead anyway. I said, “I have to tell you, you look so lovely.” She suddenly got a little teary. She said she was having a very bad day, and my compliment meant a lot to her.

Most of us want to make a difference in the world. You can do that every day by paying attention, noticing the little things that make life better, and commenting on them.

Make Sure Your Compliments are Genuine

Have you ever thought something positive but kept it to yourself? When I keep my kind words inside, I feel a little regret because I missed a chance to connect. One caveat: try not to overdo it with the same people because they may think you are being manipulative or want something from them.

Remember Aesop’s fable of the Fox and the Crow? The crow is perched on a tree branch and the fox notices a big piece of cheese in his beak. The fox compliments the crow on his shiny black coat, his regal bearing, and begins to wonder aloud what melodious tones could come from such a majestic throat. After a few minutes, the crow opens his mouth to sing and lets the cheese fall. The moral: beware of flatterers. Excessive commentary, no matter how kind or heartfelt, may be seen as suspicious.

When we take the risk to connect with others, it can renew our optimism in people, life, and ourselves.

Don’t Be Stingy with Supportive Words

Take the time to notice the effort people make. Whether it’s the person bagging your groceries to ensure nothing gets crushed, the soloist at your church choir practicing both day and night, or your child calling just to have some contact. Thank them all, and point out their kindness, attributes, or thoughtfulness. It can soothe their soul as well as yours.

It takes guts to be open. Why be scared and keep all good thoughts inside when you can share them? I encourage you to try it for one day and watch people’s reactions. Practice saying all those wonderful things you have kept inside, and watch the world change—one word at a time.

© Copyright 2011 by By Nicole Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM, LMHC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • megan r

    December 21st, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    This is such wonderful advice- and the perfect time of year to implement this in our own lives!

  • Esther Carnegie

    December 22nd, 2011 at 1:12 AM

    “…or some strange reason, there are people who seem to think compliments take something away from the giver.”

    Sorry but that makes no sense to me.

    The truth is that complimenting a stranger can come off as creepy and rude, especially if it’s about their looks or some other trait they don’t actively try to impress people with. I hate when guys I don’t know from Adam do that.

  • G. Mendelson

    December 22nd, 2011 at 4:00 AM

    I’m guilty of not voicing compliments. I’ve often thought to myself about workmates that I like their new haircut or what they are wearing and it doesn’t cross my mind to say it. Such a small thing to do that would brighten their day it is too! I’ll be more aware of that now. Thanks for the prod! :)

  • Holden

    December 22nd, 2011 at 6:02 AM

    Ha! Now we are going to have people doing things for someone else not because they just want to, but because they think that somehow it is going to improve them! This is not what that is supposed to be about! You should give because it makes you feel good, not because you are looking for ways to improve yourself.

  • Nicole

    December 22nd, 2011 at 7:28 AM

    Thank you Megan.
    Wishing you a wonderful holiday.

  • janey king

    December 23rd, 2011 at 1:57 AM

    I agree that you need to be careful about not giving too many compliments to the point where they become meaningless. The only thing worse than no compliment at all is receiving one that feels insincere. Spread them around.

  • Lewis Banner

    December 23rd, 2011 at 2:07 AM

    I’ve complimented some well-dressed women before and all they have done is take offense to me being nice. I’m not creepy, nor am I rude or lewd about it. But ladies, if you are going to spend $300 on your hair and throw a fit when I make a nice comment about it, please kindly test the theory of gravity by jumping off the nearest bridge.

  • neil watson

    December 23rd, 2011 at 2:58 AM

    I’ve always been nervous about uttering compliments for the same reasons the one above me stated. How am I supposed to know if it will make their day or make them go straight into a frenzy and ruin mine because I said something flattering and polite to them? People are so touchy and you just never know what will set them off.

  • Nicole

    December 23rd, 2011 at 7:44 AM

    I agree that there are times when a man’s compliment can feel like a come-on. Just go with your gut, and if you get a negative reaction remember it has nothing to do with you (assuming you acted appropriately). Some people just act defensively.

    It’s certainly easier for a woman to compliment another woman, an adult to compliment a child, or a student to compliment a teacher.

    All I can say is, most women I know truly appreciate a kind, friendly comment.

  • m.hawkins

    December 24th, 2011 at 8:10 AM

    just can’t compliment anyone,it feels weird.I mean a friend could have something new and expensive and I like and want to compliment but just hold back then.don’t know why this happens.

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