February 9, 2013

Spreading Smiles And Feel-Good Attitudes

Imagine this: a young man walks down the side walk. His intentions are simple; he wants to go to the library and check out a nice fiction book. He walks upright with straight back and shoulders. Though he does not look cocky, he certainly carries an air of confidence. As he walks toward his local library, he sees a group of people in front of its doors. He carries on, thinking nothing of their presence. That is, until he hears:

“Hey. You have great posture. Have a nice day.”

Then, as he looks closer at the group and notices their signs, he reads the words “Free Compliments” scrolled across the signs the individuals hold. And he smiles.

Sounds a bit different, right? Maybe even unlikely?

Well, Tufts University reported that a group of students does just this every week. The Tufts Free Compliments group gathers to make people smile. They wait outside of Tisch Library (the Tufts University library) and hold their Free Compliments signs high and with pride all with the simple purpose to make other people’s day better with a kind compliment.

The Tufts Free Compliments group president, Brendan Conron, said that the members of the group have no hidden agenda, and they genuinely mean the compliments they give out. Moreover, they try to compliment people on more meaningful things than just the material, superficial ones.

For instance, instead of complimenting someone on their attire, Conron explained that they, “…try to notice the way people carry themselves, or their attitude, so we could say things like, ‘You look determined, or intelligent or academic,’ instead of material things.” In an effort to provide more sincere admirations, the group focuses on those attitudes and carriages that are more a reflection of someone’s personality than just the shoes they wear, the clothes they have, or how they do their hair.

Conron followed up with this explanation for why they try to not compliment on how people are dressed: “When we say we like your boots, most people think, ‘Well, that’s not really a compliment; that’s just noting that you like the pattern of my boots.’”

In addition to their compliments on campus, the group also created a Facebook component called “Tufts Compliments” profile. Through this, students, faculty, and staff can submit anonymous compliments about others on campus, and Tufts Free Compliments will post it on the Facebook profile. Even technology flatters the Tufts community.

The group is hoping to become a university-recognized club so that it can recruit more active members (currently, it has 10) and also conduct formal meetings and host training sessions and complimenting seminars. This is one group dedicated to making others smile and feel good about themselves.

As I read through this article, I could not help but want to experience this phenomenon. I mean, how cool would it be to just be walking along, thinking about all the work I had to do on my writing assignment, only to hear a kind voice notice how focused I was. I can just hear it now. “Your focus for whatever you are about to do is evident in your walk. It’s very inspiring.” Yeah, that would definitely make my day.

I am not quite sure how I would respond. I feel like I would have a moment of shock at such a compliment, followed by a smile, and a polite thank you in return. I would likely return the compliment if I could.

Perhaps that is what attracts me most about the possibilities of this group. If one complimented me, I would want to give a compliment back. I would also want to pass along that good feeling to another individual who might do the same until the compliments caught on and passed from one person to another like a virus (only without the icky side effects—only good ones).

A compliment can lead to a smile, which can be infectious. These can also remind us to slow down and enjoy the day and our activities. Because no matter what we are doing (or what we have to complete from our to do lists), we should enjoy those activities and responsibilities. I think the Tufts Free Compliments group just reminded me of this lesson.

Man, what a great article. Thanks, Tufts University.

Image Credit: aslysun / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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