When In Doubt – Give the Compliment
Life is really interesting. At any given moment, you can cross paths with a person, and one little comment can shift your world – without them even knowing it.
Recently, there have been a few instances that someone has said or done something to me that has really, really impacted me, and it serves as a great reminder – that when you have the choice between giving the compliment or holding back, always give the compliment.
And I will tell you why.
A few years ago, I found out I was pregnant and I was panicked. I felt like I was staring off into the abyss, and I had no clue how I would make everything come together. I don’t think I have ever been so vulnerable in my life. And, unfortunately, soon after I found out I was pregnant, I had one of the most difficult conversations of my life with a person that shall remain nameless. This person listed all of the ways having a baby would ruin my life, and burden those around me. He made sure to point out that (in his unsolicited and unfounded opinion), having a baby would ruin my career because “no one wants a single mom working for them.”
I rarely talk about my career on this blog, but in the past 12 years – I have worked very hard to get to where I am, making tons of personal sacrifices along the way by working holidays, weekends (at 3am), overnights, 18 hour days for weeks straight, missing out on family events and sometimes a personal life – all because being successful professionally is very important to me. And when this person told me having a baby would ruin that – he took aim at a very important part of who I was. I feared he was right, and a part of me believed what he said. I allowed that comment to chip away at my self-confidence, and from that moment on his words were in my head anytime I started to push myself professionally.
But a couple of months ago, a phone call from one of our senior staff members began to undo my anti-me thinking. She asked me to work on a new project, and wondered if I’d be willing to do the job (which can be pretty intense and high-pressure) I had done a few years ago. I knew a number of people working on the project and worked well with them, so I said, “Sure.”
After I hung up the phone with her, I actually thought myself, “Huh, she definitely knows I am a single mom, and I guess it doesn’t bother her”…that self-doubt was still there…the belittling words about how no one wants a single mom working for them – right underneath the surface. But the phone call alone was enough to push me forward.
For the next 8 weeks, I worked to do the best I could in that role…and after a few weeks, I said to a close friend and colleague, “It’s so nice, for the first time in a couple years…I am finally beginning to feel like me again.” She smiled and expressed amazement that single motherhood had made me more Zen, instead of less.
When the project wrapped, we all celebrated…perhaps with an adult beverage or two. I was so proud of myself and my colleagues and honored to be part of a such a great, cohesive team. When we rose our glasses, I turned to two of my close friends and said, “Huh…I still got it.”
And one of them said, “Who are you kidding? You never lost it.”
They don’t know this, but that comment brought tears to my eyes.
Soon after, I grabbed my two bosses and asked for a photo with them…
The woman who had called me months earlier, and asked me to join the team said, “Absolutely…we need to take a picture with the girl we had to have…”
I said, “What? What do you mean?”
She said, “Oh, I don’t think I told you this, but before I even asked if you were willing to joining us, I went into his (the head of the project) office and told him we had to have you on board.”
I was so flattered and overcome by the compliment…and with one little sentence, and the actions that went with it, I completely shifted my thinking. In my mind I went from being a burden, back to being an asset. 2 1/2 years of mentally shitting all over myself – were gone.
Here’s the thing, we never know what someone is carrying around with them…what soundtrack they are playing in their head, and how one simple vote of confidence can change everything. It is impossible to know what someone’s story is, and how they got to where they are going…but what I do know for sure is that a compliment can never hurt, and can always help…So like I said – when in doubt – give the compliment.
***Huge disclaimer – let’s be honest – there are a ton of very talented people in my industry that could do the job I did, very well…but I am very grateful that I was asked, and blessed that I was complimented.