It's time to rip the cover off what really works to ditch addiction, depression, anger, anxiety, and all other kinds of human suffering. No, not sobriety. We're talking the F-word here: Freedom. We'll share, straight from the trenches, what we have learned from leaving our own addictions behind, and coaching hundreds of others to do the same—and since it's such a heavy topic, we might as well have a good time while we're at it. [00:27.6]
Bob: Welcome back to the Alive and Free Podcast. Today, we're going to dive into something that is probably controversial for some of you though. It's not really all that big of a topic and that is the topic of compliments. You see, this is pretty big in parenting. This is pretty big in terms of coaching in terms of encouragement worldwide. And that is every time I see anybody trying to say, you need to encourage people. You need to do this, or you need to do that, there's a lot of complimenting that happens. I see parents that are saying, Oh, such a great job. That's amazing and whatnot.
I see coaches myself included who have done this over and over again, saying, you're awesome. You're wonderful. And it seems like this would be a really, really positive trait to have developed the capacity to wander around and see the good in everyone, and then be able to share it with them in a way that encourages them, empowers them, inspires them and helps them see themselves in a really positive light. [01:27.5]
But here's the question. Is it really that powerful? I am not going to be one that's going to tell you to stop doing it, but what I want you to do today, what I want me to do and everybody else's to get clear on, what's really going on with compliments. To do that we're going to step into my Hebrew class.
Yes, I am taking Hebrew. I have been studying Hebrew for a little while and because I'm interested in languages and this just happens to be the next language I'm working on. I also happen to have Jewish history in my, in my family line and so that is of interest. And I've always been interested in reading the words straight from the text instead of listening to everybody else's opinions about it and just taking it on their word that that's what the text actually says. Sorry, that's just me getting down to the bottom of things to the best of my ability. So I thought, Hmm, I'll learn it in Hebrew. Well, we're going through a Hebrew class and this is a Hebrew class that I've been taking once a week, where there for an hour there's homework each week. And I hadn't bought the actual workbook textbook. And I was relying on my brain and my smarts and my ability to see patterns in language, to be able to figure some things out. I figured I'd taken a few duo lingo, Hebrew lessons, which is nothing like biblical Hebrew sometimes. [02:36.3]
And I figured I'd be okay, well about a little over halfway through the semester of classes. There's 30 classes. So 30 weeks of classes, which would mean you would be taking two a week if you were doing it in a semester. But I was only doing one a little bit about halfway through, we're doing some kind of verb form. No, it's more than halfway through. It's like three quarters of the way through, and we're doing some kind of verb form recognition. And this made total sense to me because I'd studied verbs in other language like Portuguese and Spanish and Italian and whatnot and English again and old English and some other stuff like that. So I was like, okay, cool. I'll get this. And it made sense to me, it was just like, Oh yeah, this ending changes. And that means we're talking from a different person, no big deal. So the teacher's asking me these questions and he stops at one point in time cause I give him an answer and he says, have you taken Hebrew before? And I go, no, because I didn't think a couple of Duolingo lessons counted. He goes, you must have like a really high IQ or something because like, you're, it seems like I could ask you anything and you would know it. [03:35.4]
Of course at this point in time, my confidence swells. So compliment taken, right. My confidence swells and I was like, ah, I just like languages. You know, they make sense to me sometimes, but I was really taking it as a, I wasn't trying to be humble. I was trying to be humble in a way that like sounded like I was being humble, but so that I could take credit for what, for how smart I was, right. Here's where the problem starts.
Beginning the next week we go back into some other things and now I have to know vocabulary. I don't know the vocabulary. I haven't been studying the vocabulary because I've been busy, running a business, raising a family, some other things. It's not the top on my priority list. It's just an interest of mine. So week after week, like two or three weeks in a row, I just don't have the vocab. I don't remember what the words are. I don't remember. You know what they mean? So I can't really translate any of the stuff he's asking me to translate. And he goes, man, a couple of weeks ago, maybe I did something wrong by telling you, you were really good at this because now it's like, you don't know anything. And of course that was very blunt into the face. And I was like, it's fine, whatever. I just don't know the vocabulary. Just tell me where to go study it. And I started studying it, whatnot. [04:38.4]
Here was the issue. I got a compliment from somebody. And the first way in which compliments can become catastrophic is the way that I experienced, which is somebody told me something about how smart I was whatnot. Even though on the inside, I knew it wasn't true. I had trained myself to look for other people's approval through my whole life. Think about it. You grow up, your parents are telling you what a good job you do. When you do things the way they want you to do them. They're not celebrating your involvement in life most of the time. They're celebrating that you're doing things the way that they're trying to teach you to do them. So you're looking for outside approval. You go to school and you're looking for grades. And I watch my kids.
I mean, back in the day, we used to have to go up to the teacher to ask them our grade. And they had it like handwritten in their little grade books and so they'd have to check, nowadays it's online. My kids are checking their grades every day and flipping out if they don't have an A, because the teacher put the assignment up, but hadn't put the grades in and don't get me wrong. I'm sure it's useful for some people to be able to track that at a really granular level. [05:42.2]
But in the end, here's my kids constantly worrying about what grade they're getting, what other people are grading their life as they don't care about learning the material. They don't care about getting involved in the material.
They're going to school and they are only for outside approval because their parents want them to have that so that they can go to another school, college and get more outside approval so that at the end of that, they can go get a job so that they can get approval from somebody else. And it's no wonder that people in this society are constantly struggling with what other people think. We've trained them to worry about it. And then along comes a compliment and feels like it'll solve our problems. We just want people to talk nice to us to recognize the value that we have and so we look outside ourselves for that. [06:27.1]
So I get a compliment from my Hebrew teacher and I know it's not true. I know that it's not like accurate. I know I haven't been studying, but instead of being honest with myself, I take that as like evidence that my eternal soul is somehow superior to another being's eternal soul or to the other people in the class. And so at that point in time, I'm feeling really good about myself.
And then along comes the disillusionment, which is when I have to come face to face with what's really true, which is that I don't know the vocabulary. And I just happened to be good at verb forms at the moment. Then all of a sudden, all of that wonderful, you know, puffed up feeling I had comes, crashing down it and I experienced a low. Nothing had changed in my skill or ability. In fact, my skill might've increased over those few weeks because I was still going to classes. But I felt like I had crashed to a low and that I was not worth much because suddenly what I had assumed to be true, what I had taken for truth, even though it wasn't now, like I had to confront the fact that it wasn't true. [07:35.6]
So the first danger of compliments is that we exaggerate what's there and turn it into a generalization about everything else that we are all of our qualities, all of our goodness. Here's what I mean by that is if my Hebrew teacher had said, wow, Bob, you're really picking up these verb forms well, today, that's just a declaration of what there. Not I feel like I could ask you anything. Do you have a really high IQ? All of the exaggerations that come from making a compliment. We see one positive thing and we wanted to exaggerate it because we love drama and we love feeling super good. And we feel like, Oh, in order to feel great, I have to be the best. So we start to exaggerate this to ourselves and to other people. So if you're going to give a compliment only compliment, what's there. If you're going to compliment yourself about how good you are only compliment what's there.
I had a guy a while ago who we were having them do a certain process, a client who we were having to go through a certain process and to just write down some of the positive qualities about himself. And he said, when I did this whole process, the, I don't know, something, it just didn't ring true to me. And I was like, well, tell me what you wrote down. [08:38.5]
He said, I love my family was one of the things that he wrote. And I said, okay, cool. Do you love them all the time? He said, yes, all the time. I said, so even at the times when you're busy doing something and you're focused and they're interrupting you because they want you to do something else, that's not on your priority list, you love them? Well yeah. So you, you are experienced in that moment. Total love, total devotion, total wonder and awe and unconditional everything toward them. There's not any hint of frustration or irritation or anything else like that. He's like, well, no.
It's like, okay, cool. So sometimes you're frustrated with your kids. Well, yeah, sometimes you wish they weren't around. Well, yeah. Okay, cool. Well then how about, instead of saying, I love my family all the time. You just say, you know what; sometimes I love my family so much that I put them before anything that I want to do. Because that's true. Sometimes you will set down your priorities and go do stuff, but that's an honest answer. And as he started getting honest about the things that he was saying about himself, it made him feel better than trying to say that he was top notch, wonderful. So, and then you can, if you go into these environments where people do this a lot, where we get up and we share what's real for us, it's very, very, very, very easy to go into exaggeration mode, both of all the good and of course the negative. But today we're talking about compliments. [09:51.2]
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So the first danger, the first catastrophe of a compliment is that it's a very easy to turn into a lie and an exaggeration about what's there, which means that disillusionment is coming all right. The second catastrophe and this is the one that I think is actually the more heinous of them, even though it doesn't seem like it would be in the first place. And that is that any time that you're going to compliment someone else, it means that you are standing in the place of judgment and you are pronouncing upon them, whether or not they pass muster, whether or not you intended, you are placing yourself above them as judge, in order to determine whether or not they are worth something. And it's same thing goes as it for an insult. But everybody gets that an insult as somebody trying to make feel better about themselves.
But a compliment is this sly subtle way that has happened in both of them are accusations against a person. You're accusing them of something good. You're accusing them of something bad in an insult. [11:22.8]
Blaming, both of them are blaming. You're blaming them for something good, or you're blaming them for something bad. In any way, shape or form, they are accusations. And in Hebrew, the word Satan means one who accuses. It's the accuser.
Think about that for a second. Every time you accuse anyone of anything, you judge anyone of anything good or bad, you are standing in the place of a judge, a Satan an accuser, and you are pronouncing them in a way less than you. I know you don't intended. I know you love to compliment people. And I am not in any way, shape or form saying, it's not great to say nice things to people, or to really be honest about incredible things that you admire in them. I'm not saying that at all. So we'll get to the practicality of it, but I want you to see this point clearly. [12:14.9]
When you are complimenting your kids, your coworkers, your boss, your friends, or anybody else, if you're complimenting them by declaring them something, you are actually doing them a disservice because you are reinforcing the idea that they need approval from someone else that they are less than other people, because they are need your approval or your judgment in order to be seen that way.
You and I are not the judge. Not at all. We are not built here to be the judge. We are here to live life in a very, very happy way and to love and to enjoy the whole process of life. It is not our job to go judge other people. Yes, we can, but it's not our job to do it. And as kids, when they grow up and they are hearing people, tell them, you're awesome. You're amazing. You're such a good kid. If at any way, shape or form, they don't feel that on the inside, it actually reinforces the negativity that they have on the inside. And that's the third catastrophe. [13:11.6]
So the first catastrophe is that it puffs them up and eventually sets them up for a disillusion. The second catastrophe is that it places you, the complimenter above them as a judge and puts them into the pit a bit.
And the third catastrophe is that if they do not believe that at their core, what it is that you're saying, then it tends to reinforce the negative thing, view that they have of themselves. Is that what you want for the people in your life that you love? Now, if you believe your shelf to be everything that someone is complimenting you for, you'll, you'll stand there and you'll be like, yeah, I know. And it won't affect you. You'd be like, yeah, whatever, moving on, you won't need the compliment because you already know the truth on the inside.
And this is where we go into the tactics of it. So for you parents out there that are looking like, well, what do I do with my kids? How do I raise them? I still think it's a good thing to say to compliment people. That's great. You're allowed to think that I'm one person out of 7.6 billion people on the planet. You are allowed to disagree. It's wonderful. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Okay. [14:16.6]
I am just sharing a, an alternate perspective and I'll share my experience with it. So for you parents out there that are complimenting kids wondering what to do for you, friends and coworkers and spouses and loved ones that are out there trying to figure it out I'm going to tell you a simple way to go about it once with kids and one with just other people, okay. With kids, this is easy. They come to you and they're like, dad, did you see my back lip? Or my side flip? Or my Cartwheel or that thing that I colored over there? Yeah I saw it or no, I didn't see it. Show it to me. And they show it to you.
They’re like, what do you think of that? And I go, what I go, I really like this piece of it. What do you think of it? And I turn it back to them. I turn it back, back to them because I want them to have the reinforcement of their own opinion being what matters most. The first time I saw this in clarity was with a friend of mine, Seth Ellsworth, who would do this with his, he did this with his kids a couple of times and I remember reflecting on it going, yeah, that's the direction. [15:16.1]
What I see with happens with my kids when I do this, is that they get very excited about their own life experience and learning from their own life experience. They get stoked about it because as much as, they're wanting my approval, I'm not giving it to them. I'm giving them their approval, which to me is a much greater gift because then they don't rely on me to have to feel good about them for the rest of their life, in order for them to be happy. And what I've seen my kids do is start to own and honor their experience. And I can sit that and be like, wow, I don't really like that one. Do you like it? And they'll be like, yeah, they like it. I go, wow, that's cool. What do you like about it? What was exciting to you about it? And we're allowed to be honest with each other about what we feel, what we think, because it's not an issue with there being, it's just a life experience. So now my kids are being more honest about the things that they don't like, the things that they do like, they're more honest about their own celebrations of the things they've done. They're learning from it. They're celebrating their own experience because I, it's not that I'm perfect in this regard. Meaning sometimes I go and compliment them anyway. [16:15.0]
But instead of saying, you are awesome, all responding, think, Oh, wow, that really surprised me. I will talk about my experience. So this is what I do with friends and with other people and whatnot. When they're asking me what I think I'll tell them what I think, but I'm always telling them, not in terms of you are this or you are that, or yes, you did amazing. How do I know they did amazing. I can say, wow, what you did really amazed me because that's honest.
I don't know. I can't judge what they did from their perspective or from a professional's perspective. Even if I were to judge somebody with regard to some of the things that I have a lot of experience with, even then I can only speak about my reaction to it.
So I'm just trying to be honest, more honest than I've ever been. And, and in, so doing avoid catastrophic compliments. Because catastrophic compliments actually tend to make a life more precarious, more dangerous, and lead people into well, the stuff that I help people with, all of the depression, the anxiety, the, the trauma, the, the, everything else that's going on, the addictions, everything else, people, people pleasers that don't feel like they're good enough because they were constantly looking for approval outside of themselves when the only place they can get approval, that sticks that lasts and that really means something is from the inside. [17:32.7]
So best to let them find it on the inside and simply celebrate my experience with them. If they're not having a great experience with what they did, I go, wow, what's that like, tell me about that. What was so not great about that? And they can talk to me about it and be like, well, cause I, I was impressed by it. What, what didn't impress you about it? Oh, this that or the other. Oh, interesting. And then I can find out what's going on.
So as we wrap up today, remember, I am not suggesting that you hold back your kindness or you hold back your awe and wonder and excitement about everything that other people are doing.
What I am suggesting here is that the way that you communicate it is one that is simply honest. You compliment only that, which is there not by judging it, but by simply reporting your experience with it. If it excited, you say that you're excited you, if it inspired you say that it inspired you, but stop short of declaring the other person anything. [18:32.6]
Declaring them good, bad, ugly, awesome, amazing, incredible, you know, talented or anything else stopped short of declaring them anything because you are not in the position to judge. All you can ever speak, honestly, is what your experience has been. If you stop short of that, then they no longer have to cope with your judgment of them.
They'll no longer be put in the pit in this sly subtle way. They'll stop needing other people's approval in order to feel like they're worth something. That's it for today. So your task this week is to avoid catastrophic complements, and instead get involved in life with wonder and awe and start sharing your honest, true experience with the people you care about. [19:11.5]
And that's it for todays “Alive and Free Podcast.” If you enjoyed this show and want some more freedom bombs landing in your ear buds, subscribe right now at wherever you get your podcasts from. And, while you're at it, give us a rating and a review. It'll help us keep delivering great stuff to you. Plus, it's just nice to be nice. [19:29.9]
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