Interviewers often ask a simple question, “What was the best compliment that you ever received.” For me, it’s an easy question to answer. A fellow astronaut, Dave Williams, once said to me, “When you’re around, things work.” Now, almost 16 years later, I still remember it and still feel proud of it.
Why? Because it aligned so closely with my own perceptions of who I was and what I was good at. It reflected back at me my own pride in being able to get people and equipment to function and work together in ways that left others surprised and delighted. It was a succinct and direct recognition of my strengths. As a compliment, coming from a peer who I respected and admired, it was very powerful. I couldn’t ask for better. It has become, in a way, my own personal tag line.
We tend to forget the impact of a good compliment. I’m not talking about a flippant “Good Job!” but a well thought out compliment: one that takes close knowledge of the other, a sense of affinity and real appreciation. Delivered well, compliments are treasured. They can motivate a person through very difficult times and can be more reward than money.
I’ll admit that I am not the best at giving compliments but I try. I try to give compliments more than criticism and I try to make them count for something. I hope I have touched people in the way Dave’s words touched me.
And for you? What is the best compliment you have ever received? If you were to compliment yourself, right now, in a way that would have you thinking about it twenty years hence, what would you say?