My son and I recently took a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark. While on our visit we went to an outside fair. We strolled around for a bit, eventually finding ourselves at a booth featuring the most amazing pencil drawings. The woman at the booth created and sold them and it was obvious from her work that she was truly talented.
My son agreed with me and said he liked a few of the pieces himself. We didn’t buy anything immediately though. We still had a great deal of the fair to explore so we told her that we’d come back later to make our purchases. She’d probably heard that quite a bit, never laying eyes on the prospective buyer again, but we had a genuine desire to own some of her work. We just didn’t want to have to carry it around the park with us.
True to our word, we returned later. While picking out the pieces we wanted, I told the woman how impressed I was with her art. From a Living Your YOUlogy perspective, how could you not be impressed with her courage in creating her life as an artist, setting up at fairs like this to display her talents for the world to see?
One of the drawings I found reminded me of the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I mentioned that to her, we discussed it for a bit, and she said she was going to buy the book to see how I’d made the comparison.
After a spirited search my son decided which drawing he wanted, picking out a second one too. Since he was buying two the woman kindly gave him a deal. I found one myself and, as I was getting ready to pay for my piece, she told me to just take it. Take it for free.
My first instinct was to say, “No, that’s okay,” but then I realized that she wanted to give it to me because she felt so good about it. She was grateful for the way I openly appreciated her and her work, and for my sharing of The Giving Tree, and wanted to say thank you with one of her precious pieces of art.
That exchange reminded me how much energy there is when you give a genuine compliment. I had absolutely no agenda that day other than to pay tribute to this woman’s talent. As a result, she felt moved enough to want to give me a gift of appreciation. I wanted to give her the gift of accepting it in return.
Isn’t that hard sometimes, though? To accept a gift that someone has offered? Oftentimes, we feel that the best response is to politely decline. After all, the compliment paid was genuine, so why would we want to lessen it in any way by taking something of value in return?
However, accepting a token of appreciation is just as important as offering the appreciation in the first place. The radiant smile on the artist’s face as I graciously accepted her work reminded me of this truth. I felt good because I was able to share how much I enjoyed it, and she felt good because she was able to share her work with me.
Of course, the best compliment is one that is given because it is felt, not for of any possible return. But if that return is there, it can be just as giving to accept. Try it – it’s one of the most powerful experiences around.