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Left Handed ComplimentsNCHS Superintendent’s Notes – January 11, 2017

By Ernie Fowler – Nashville CHSD #99

efowler@nashville-k12.org

If you read my column last week, you will remember that I encouraged everyone to be more complimentary in 2017. How are you doing with that so far? NCHS students, have you come back to school and looked for reasons to compliment your classmates? Come on guys, you can do it! When we give compliments, we should be sincere. For those of you my age or older, you might remember a show called Leave it to Beaver. There was a character named Eddie Haskell. Eddie was a jerk while he was around Wally and “the Beav” but he was always sickening sweet when Ward and June Cleaver were in the room. Eddie was a phony baloney! Compliments should be truthful. Because of that, sometimes we have to look hard to find something to compliment. I believe, however, the extra effort is all worth it when we see the smile on the face of the person who we just complimented. Why not get addicted to the warm feeling we receive by bringing a few seconds of joy to someone else?

We need to be careful, however, in how we compliment. Some folks use a “compliment” as a “dig”. Such a move is often called a “left handed compliment”. That is when we say something that can be positive or negative….depending on the focus. I’ll give you an example or two. Several years ago I purchased a new chair for my office. I used my own money….not that of the school district! I was thrilled with the purchase. A student came in and made an observation. She said….”I like your new chair Mr. Fowler (positive), too bad it doesn’t go with the rest of your office (negative)”. How would she have liked it had I said, “you know Katie, you’re not as ugly as your sister (positive/negative)”? A left-handed compliment is designed to insult someone with a positive spin. Sometimes we need to hobble our tongue before it ruins a good thing. “Katie” should have left it at “I like your new chair” and kept the rest of her opinion to herself.

People can read through insincerity and people know an insult when they hear it….sugar coated or not. Our “Year of Compliments” should be honest and, with time, become a habit. I admire folks who exude positivity. I have a friend who is now in his 80’s. He was my first pastor of the church I attended when I was a kid. The man has always been filled with joy. He once fell off a roof while replacing shingles and broke both arms. I visited him in the hospital. When I walked in, there he was laying in the hospital bed with his arms propped up but smiling ear to ear. He looked at me and said something to the effect of “hey, you’re looking good today”. I went to the hospital thinking I would help him to feel better but his simple compliment put a spring in my step. Anyone can be an old grouch but it takes a special someone to be an encourager. Who will you be?

Left Handed Compliments