Thursday, June 17, 2010
So I WAS going to have this for a title:
“The Swear Jar, The Compliment Book, and The Help”
These were really three separate, non-sequitor topics. But then I stopped for a sec to see if I could come up with a more creative title that connects them, cuz I like playing with words.
And then, ooo, I love it when this happens. While I was thinking about words for the title, I realized these three topics were all related to words!
Hence the title...I Swear The Compliment Book Helps.
I've been paying a lot of attention to words lately. First someone mentioned a Swear Jar. Everytime you swear you put a quarter in the jar. For me? That would be nothing but a fast-track savings plan. :)
But the Swear Jar, combined with some other serendipitous things, got me hyper-focused on words for the past few weeks. I do that; I get focused on something and my head stays there for awhile playing around with whatever's hanging out. I like it when that happens, when my mind toys around tying things together.
Here's a few ways the power of words has been showing up in my life lately...
The power of words likely pulled my son and I apart. And now the power of words is putting us back together...including through a game he and his girlfriend got me hooked on called...
Words With Friends.
It's an iPhone Scrabble game. If you're playing, look me up – GadgetGirl) You can't IMAGINE all the words you can make out of a few consonants and vowels. Words I didn't even know existed...
The rhythm of poetry is back in my head, too; a friend of mine and I have started to share what we write as I wrote in the comments of my last blog when I posted that poem...
This Saturday, becaue this is just enough fooling around about this...another friend and I are getting together for our first book-writing session. By the end of 2011, I'm just sayin'...
...and in the background of it all, in my spare time, running by the river in Colorado where I just was for a week, or driving in my car, I was listening to an Audible book called The Help. I'm done with it now, but it's not done with me. The voices of the readers, the sound of their words, the stories of the people, have stayed in my head, in my ears, in my heart, even though the book has said The End.
The book is set in the 60s in Jackson, Mississippi, and it's all about the black women, The Help, telling their stories...sharing their words. It was all they had, those women...much like the civil rights leaders of that time...Martin Luther King in particular. That's what he had, his words, and he used them to move a nation with his dream.
I have a dream, too. I want to write a book; I want to make a difference with my words, with my stories. I want to inspire other people to use their words to tell their stories, too. Our stories are important; our words make a difference for better or for worse.
All of this mixed up in my brain, and then here's what else happened in Colorado...My friend launched her company, ChoosePeople.com, and had a gathering of friends to celebrate. She asked everyone to bring a quote for her Girlfriend Board, a board she was going to look at to lift her up when her spirits were low. (Imma get me one of these, right?!)
At the gathering, most of the people got henna (not me), then everyone learned an Indian dance. After we ate and danced, everyone gathered around to share those quotes my friend had asked for. Of course, being Great Girlfriends, they showed up in Spades...or is it Hearts! There were stories, quotes, tears, laughter, memories. I hope we gave her enough wind beneath her wings so she can soar for a long time.
That night, and the next day, I was thinking hard about what a gift those shared words were. They weren't expensive; but they were priceless. And writing them down for later, when they're needed, could change someone's whole direction don't you think?
And that's when it hit me...I'm going to do this for my husband. The Compliment Book.
My husband and I have been trying so hard to make things work together at work and at home. It's hard to be together as much as we are, when we're so very different. We start taking each other for granted, and when we're tired, or stressed, we take it out on each other, always with our words. We've had so many conversations about how if we're just kind, respectful, caring, it doesn't take long for everything to turn around. We don't want to break up and go our separate ways; we've been together for 20 years. There's something solid under there to withstand all this pressure when everyone else wonders how we can.
So I decided I would be the one to change our direction, change the tone. Change our words to each other, those powerful words that mean so much and can hurt so bad. First, I sent him a postcard from Colorado, and then I bought him The Compliment Book.
You see, my husband feels loved when I tell him how much I like what he does. This system works great at home. When I'm gone, he works like crazy to do projects he knows are going to make a difference in my life when I get home because he knows I'm going to tell him over and over how much I appreciate it. It's such a sweet part of him; I wouldn't have him any other way.
But it doesn't serve him so well at work because he works with me. At work, I'm a logical, task-oriented person who believes examining mistakes, processes, systems and situations is vital to find lasting, worthwhile improvements. The tool I've been working on for over a year came from my penchant for getting things right. That's a great trait for a programmer, an analyst, a strategist. It makes for a bad manager, and an awful trainer.
The problem for us is that we're not autonomous at work. My husband is in a situation where the person who's training him and watching over what he does isn't giving him the kind of feedback and reassurance he needs, especially in this fragile learning situation in which he finds himself.
And I have to manage and train when I'd rather stab my eyes out. I don't want to check up on what someone's done. And I don't want to pay attention to whether someone's taking analysis of a situation the wrong way. I don't want to be forced to say “You did a good job, but” Too much like my childhood, full of parents who only said “I Love You” when it was followed by “But...I Hate The Things You Do”.
To me, that's just a layer of frosting on a sh*t cake. It's not real recognition. It's just pussyfooting around wasting time before getting to the point (just sayin'). Anyway, it's not for me. If I'm talking to him about how to do something, that's what I'm focused on.
Enter, The Compliment Book. I bought a Moleskin and Barnes & Noble while I was in Colorado, and now every day, before I go to sleep at night, I give him a compliment about something he's done or something I admire. It has to be specific and meaningful. It has to be something he's made a choice to do or behave like. You're cute, or you have a nice.... doesn't count.
After I tell him the compliment, I write it down, usually adding a little something extra. Then, I give him the book and he reads it. He can read the book anytime he wants, when he needs a little boost. I can, too, when I need to remember how special he is.
And you should see the gift I get for paying attention to how I use my words. My sweetie melts like a little boy; big smile, sweet face. I walked back into a pressure cooker after being off for a week, a situation that would have normally been explosive. Instead, in the week or so since I started this, we've gone from snarky comments multiple times a day to one snarky comment the entire week, for which he profusely apologized. And it's not just him who's changed. I Swear The Compliment Book Helps both of us. You can't help but think better of someone and choose more powerful positive words when you're looking for the opportunity.
And now, if you're of a mind to comment here, you know what I'D love to hear from you? What compliment has someone given you that's meant the world to you? If you tell me the story of it, I bet you get the gift of a sweet memory; those words coming back up fresh in your mind. And I get the gift of smiling over how that compliment helped you.