Normalization of Toasts

No, not bread. The other definition, whereby a group of people raise their glasses, sing praises about someone, and proceed to sip (or chug, there is no in between) their drinks. Specifically, I want to discuss compliments.

True compliments are rare, and it’s no wonder that I find it difficult to accept them sincerely. My “thanks!” and “I appreciate it” always seem to fall flat. WikiHow, the premier website for the anxiety-ridden population, even has a whole page dedicated to this subject. Maybe the reason for this is that we just need more practice taking in a compliment. Conversely, that means we, as a population, need to give out more sincere compliments to friends, family and even strangers.

A better question should be why aren’t compliments more widely given? In my experience, well-to-do children in stable households accumulate accolades fast. “You worked so hard Timmy! Great job!” or “Look at you Tess, someone did marvelously.” The smallest thing was worthy of praise. I still remember being quite proud of family friends complimenting my height when I was in elementary school. While shallow in nature, it instilled self-esteem and made a boy happier.

But past the grade school period, I found that compliments dry up from family and friends. Perhaps it is because there is less to “celebrate” as we age. Birthdays become ho-hum and holidays can even be depressing at times. There’s also the simple fact that compliments usually results from an action or change in a lifestyle (e.g. new wardrobe, physique, graduation, career change, marriage etc.) and those events are sparse.

Compliments from strangers are even rarer, and has actually been studied more. It seems that there are three-ish main reasons:

  1. People underestimate the power of a genuine compliment.
  2. People overestimate how awkward a social interaction is
  3. People are anxious talking to someone in general

The conclusion from the study: just compliment people more! Everyone will feel better, and it’s not difficult. Comedy Central’s Toast might never materialize, but I can certainly start doing my part by giving out more genuine, compliments.

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