This post was part of a 30-day social experiment I did challenging myself to give more compliments. Also check out the recap and results, my five big takeaways from the project, and the related reddit post.
Another June has concluded, as has my second social experiment. Revealing:
90 Compliments in 30 Days
As I mentioned in the teaser post, the format was extremely similar to 90 Strangers. However, this time around the experiment involved the unknowing “participation” of both strangers and people I already knew.
But first, the guidelines I tried to follow.
1. I must pay a compliment to three different people each day. These can be to strangers, people I’ve known for years, and everyone in between.
2. A compliment will be considered as Webster’s does:
an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration; an admiring remark
3. Compliments can be issued in person, over the phone, or via text.
4. The compliment must be genuine (e.g., I can’t tell someone I like their hair if I don’t actually like it).
5. The compliment must be something that I wouldn’t normally say, and should be specific where possible. General “nice jobs” after a workout I will try not to count; e-mailing someone at work “Thanks, good job!” will definitely not count.
And to ramp up the difficulty:
6. I cannot compliment the same person twice (and count it towards the 90 for the month)
This is to ensure that I am still being outgoing with this, and am not just constantly showering my friends and co-workers in compliments.
February through April of this year I went through some ‘personal defeats’ (read: normal twenty-something year-old stuff). The details don’t matter, but the result was I started to obsess over my career, relationships, and goals in an unhealthy manner. I was wanted to have everything figured out NOW, and when things weren’t falling into place like I thought they should, it was adding a lot of stress to my life.
Despite knowing deep down that I am very fortunate to have all I do in life and that I need to just enjoy the ride, I felt extremely self-absorbed* and not at all like the person that went out and talked to 118 strangers in 30 days last year. In short, I was a little bit disgusted with my thought patterns and just generally “down”.
On top of that, over the past few months I’ve admittedly become comfortable—complacent, even—with myself socially. I haven’t been meeting as many new people, and the ones I have were in networking settings where a lot of the underlying motive is “how can this person help ME?”
I want to shift my focus and do something that will make others feel good as opposed to obsessing over how I can make my own life better. Something that will let me find the good in other for the sake of doing so, instead of simply critiquing and analyzing their value to my self-serving goals.
Also, 90 Strangers was one of the most fun and rewarding things I’ve ever done. People liked reading about it, I liked writing about it, which is as good of a sign as any that I should continue to do more with this kind of idea.
Like 90 Strangers, I predict that the first few days will be the toughest as I gain a feel for things. Similar in the way it took my brain getting used to looking for opportunities to start talking to random people, I am sure an adjustment period will be needed as I start to learn to identify what to compliment others on, be it something they are wearing, how they carry themselves, or how they write their cursive Qs.
I also predict that by the time all is said and done, I will be feeling like I did at the end of the last experiment: at my socially strongest.
I’ve always liked the analogy that improving your social skills is like strengthening any other muscle. At the end of last summer I don’t know if I ever felt more free, in-state, and ‘effortless’ in social settings (that includes situations where I’ve been drunk). It was an amazing feeling, and while I don’t want to necessarily chase a specific outcome and risk being disappointed if that result isn’t produced, but a big part of me hopes I can get that feeling back.
Next, I am fairly confident that by the end the 30 days I will be able to find something to compliment just about everyone on, and do so naturally without hesitation.
Finally, I think the whole thing is going to be extremely fun, give me the social recharge I need, and hopefully inspire others to do a similar challenge or experiment with themselves.