A simple framework to brighten someone’s day — and yours, too

Genuine praise — the kind that makes us feel seen, heard, appreciated, like we matter — feels really, really good.

But it doesn't come very often.

I have mentioned how my husband and I have a routine we call "appreciation Monday." Once a week (whichever day we actually remember), we take a few minutes to go through all the recent things we've noticed and been grateful for in each other. I share this over and over because it consistently blows me away how great it feels.

I think it's because it's so unfamiliar.

Out in the world, in general, we either don't complement each other, or we keep it superficial, with small, basic niceties: "I love your shirt," "Your house is beautiful." "Delicious cookies!"

I fall into this trap, too.

It feels vulnerable and awkward to go deeper. I worry that I'll fumble over my words. I get nervous; I probably won't say things the right way. I'll make the other person feel weird. They'll think that I want something — or they need to reciprocate — or that I have crush on them. Eek.

But the truth is that kind words can brighten a person's day. I see this on Mondays at home but didn't consider the value beyond that scope until "compliment tic-tac-toe" came across my desk.

The framework, spun as a challenge, is just as hokey as Appreciation Monday, and it’s similarly about sharing kind words and a nod of gratitude.

Dr. Liz Kofman-Burns is a sociologist and the co-founder of Peoplism, the DEI consulting firm that put it together. She suggests browsing the board/graphic to get ideas flowing for whom to compliment and how.

"Many of us have a terrible habit of staying silent when it comes to giving positive feedback, which is a missed opportunity for connection," she says.

"Even if it's only something small, praise can go a long way, but it's most effective when given alongside concrete examples. Bonus points for giving three compliments in a line and completing Compliment Tic-Tac-Toe!"

Peoplism created this archetypal compliment blueprint primarily for workplaces, but Dr. Kofman-Burns says it works for all relationships. I can attest to that. So far, I've contacted a Rock (according to the board, “someone the team knows they can always count on,”) and a Celebratorian (“someone who offers their support and encouragement, elevating others) — both family members. I'm eyeing a Lightheart and a Bridge next. It's a good start, but not three in a line. No bonus points for me.

For the actual delivery, an example from Kofman-Burns' team is to say something like this: "Hey (person), just wanted to send you a quick thank you for being our team's biggest goalie. You never ever let anything fall through the cracks, and I can't imagine how we'd get everything done to such a high level of quality without your amazing efforts. (Add elaboration and examples)."

Such a better compliment than "nice sweater."

This definitely takes some thought and courage, but complimenting people and expressing what we genuinely appreciate about them is a beautiful act of service and showing of kindness. It's worth looking for opportunities to boldly do this more often.

I have no doubt it’ll brighten our own days, too. Bonus points for everyone.

Marci Izard Sharif is an author, yoga teacher, meditation facilitator and mother. In Feeling Matters, she writes about self-love, sharing self-care tools, stories and resources to know and be kind to yourself.