It's easy to get so caught up in your busy-dizzy life that you neglect to compliment others on their efforts and accomplishments. The intriguing thing is what a powerful impact a compliment can have on both the giver and the recipient. It was at 35,000 feet that I came to realize exactly how powerful.
Near the end of the flight, I started speculating that most passengers, myself included, are wrapped up in our thoughts and oblivious to the service provided unless something goes wrong. As a result, flight attendants probably get very few compliments.
Being ever the experimenter, I decided to find out. I approached a flight attendant and asked her how often anyone ever complimented her for her service. She evaded my question, and said: "I'm a professional. I know my job. I don't need to hear compliments from passengers to know I'm doing a good job."
The tone of her voice strongly suggested that words of appreciation were an infrequent occurrence in her profession. I told her that I appreciated her service. I added that given how full the flight was and how little opportunity she had had to relax, I particular enjoyed the sense of humor she had exhibited in reassuring some stressed passengers.
I then asked how often she'd received this sort of compliment or any other from a passenger. Well, she told me, there are 139 passengers on this flight, so that makes 1 out of 139. Then, my psychology background rising to the surface, I asked, "And how did it make you feel?"
"You made my day," she said. She was beaming. She may not have needed a compliment to know she was doing a good job, but she certainly didn't seem to mind hearing one. And though I had intended simply to make her feel good, what surprised me was how good her reaction made me feel. Yet it was so easy. Just a simple expression of appreciation.
It may sound as if I did something for her that day, but the truth is, she did even more for me in reminding me how good a kind word can feel.