Tag Archive for compliment

What A Slap to the Face

“Don’t be stupid.” “You’re an idiot.” “You are a lazy bum.” Ouch, what a slap to the face. Three of them in fact. Just reading an insult hurts a little, doesn’t it? Each one is like a “mini slap to the face “… literally. At least that is what Dr. Struiksma, the lead author of a study published in Frontiers in Communication, reports. She and her colleagues had 29 females read a series of statements that were either insulting, complimenting, or neutral. Half the statements used the participant’s name while the other half used someone else’s name. The participants’ responses were measured using EEG’s and skin conductance measures.

Even in this lab setting, with no real human interactions and with statements coming from fictitious people, insults “got under the skin” of the participants.  Each insult elicited an early effect in the brain; and it did so every time a participant heard it…. even if it did not include their name.  EEG readings from this study suggest that an insult immediately “grabs the listener’s attention” as they attempted to assess the insult and its meaning in the current context, just like a “mini slap to the face” grabs our attention and shocks us emotionally & physically.

I don’t know about you, but I find it very disturbing to even imagine someone slapping another person in the face, let alone slapping a family member in the face. Yet we live in a society where one person will insult another person at the drop of a hat, without even a thought. Don’t believe me? Recall the elections and political debates or skim through some Twitter and Facebook posts. Read them sparingly though. After all, in the study described above. even an insult given to someone else was like a “mini slap to the face.” Perhaps that is why so many political ads remain bothersome to us. Each one, each insult, becomes a “mini slap to the face” for the candidate and for each of us who hears or reads the insult. One can only tolerate so many “mini slaps to the face.” 

This insult as a “mini slap to the face” can also hit close to home, can’t it? Too many family arguments elicit an insult. But I don’t want to become the source of a “mini slap to the face” of my spouse or my children or my parents. Do you? Let’s not give our family a “mini slap in the face.” Let’s commit to NOT insulting anyone in our family (or outside our family for that matter). Instead, we can act on Fred’s determination regarding the opportunity to insult his Uncle Scrooge: “his offenses carry their own punishment and I’ll have nothing to say against him.” Rather than getting caught in a cycle of insults, let’s determine to offer gratitude, compliments, or even constructive criticisms instead. I’m making that commitment. Will you join me?

The Greatest Compliment You Can Give Your Spouse

Everyone wants to know others recognize and appreciate them. In fact, Mother Teresa said, “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”  I agree. You may not find the opportunity to share appreciation for “everybody,” but there is one person who you can express appreciation to multiple times every day…your spouse. Here is a simple, yet powerful way to makes sure your spouse knows you appreciate them. Compliment them. Look for daily opportunities to compliment your spouse as often as you can.

You can compliment your spouse verbally, but there is another way that might prove more powerful than all the words you could ever say. Randy S. Woodley (link) brought it to my attention when he wrote, “Listening is perhaps the greatest compliment one person can pay to another.” Listening compliments your spouse in at least 4 ways.

  • Listening communicates that you find your spouse interesting and of significance. It communicates a curiosity about them and their ideas, a desire to know them more deeply.
  • Listening expresses how much you value your spouse’s emotions, ideas, and perspectives. In fact, you value them and their emotions, ideas, and perspectives enough to sacrifice your time to intently listen to them.
  • Listening respects your spouse’s voice as equal to your own, important and informative. In fact, you respect their voice so much that you desire to hear their insights and thoughts.
  • Listening communicates that you value your spouse’s opinion. It lets them know you consider their voice as valid as your own, so valid that you will put aside your own ideas and opinions long enough to understand theirs.

As you truly listen, you learn. Your spouse becomes an “open book” from whom you learn. You learn about them and their view of the world. And, you learn things you wouldn’t have known otherwise.

Just as important as what you might learn, listening also represents the greatest compliment you can give your spouse…a compliment of their significance, value, and importance…a compliment of their knowledge and their influence…all without saying a word!

The Superpower of a Compliment

March 1 was World Compliment Day, but I think we need a reminder of the importance of a good compliment more often than once a year. So, here’s a reminder of the superpower of a compliment. 

We all want our families to know how much we value them. And compliments make people feel valued. So, give your spouse a compliment. Give your children a compliment. Give your parent a compliment. Let them know how much you value them.

Compliments also reduce the negative effects of stress. What? A less stressful spouse? A less stressful child? A less stressful parent? All due to a simple, sincere compliment? Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But it is true. Give your family a compliment.

“Yeah, but you don’t know my family. They don’t care about compliments.” Research begs to differ. Research suggests we underestimate how good a sincere compliment will make the recipient feel. Honestly, don’t you enjoy a sincere compliment? So will your spouse, your children, and your parents.

“But if I give my family a compliment every day, they’ll get tired of it. It will become meaningless.” Not so. Sincere compliments, according to research, continue to lift the recipient’s mood every time they are offered, even when offered day after day. Compliments never grow old.

Don’t reserve March 1 for complimenting your spouse, children, and parents.  Get out there and compliment them today. Your sincere compliment will boost their positive mood. It will make them more aware of their inherit value. It will help them realize how much you value them. It will deepen and strengthen your relationship with them… and isn’t that what we really want? Give it a try. Compliment your family today and tomorrow. Compliment them every day for a month and pay attention to how this impacts their behavior and your relationship with them. You’ll love the results.

A Provocative Secret for a More Satisfying Sex Life

I am amazed at society’s obsessive search for a satisfying sex life. Well…I’m not surprised people want a great sex life; but I am surprised about the focus of that search for a great sex life. The main thrust of society’s search for a satisfying sex life remains focused on the physical aspects of sex—the technique, physical prowess, and self-awareness. Sure, these can help, but without a firm foundation to build upon, these superficial answers merely build a house of cards on shifting sand.  In reality, research suggests a satisfying sex life is stimulated by aspects much deeper than physical prowess, techniques, or ability. The most satisfying sex life erupts from an intimate, emotional connection between two people committed to one another. In fact, a study out of George Mason University revealed that the more spouses appreciate each other’s strengths, the more satisfied they were with their relationship overall and their sex life in particular. They were also more committed and invested in their relationship. They experienced greater intimacy. Even more alluring, valuing a spouse’s strengths led the appreciated spouse to experience a greater sense of personal growth. Let me summarize these exciting results in a format that might more readily stimulate your appreciation of their implications. Appreciating your spouse’s strengths:

  1. Leads to a more satisfying relationship overall,
  2. Greater intimacy in general,
  3. A greater commitment to and investment in the relationship,
  4. A spouse who experiences the joy of personal growth, and yes,
  5. A more satisfying sex life!

Hopefully, the provocative findings of this study arouse your latent desire to acknowledge and admire your spouse’s strengths. By doing so, you lay a firm foundation of intimacy and appreciation that will stimulate your sex life to blossom into a satisfying experience.

Marital Advice from “Captain Obvious”

It may seem obvious, but simply understanding your partner’s needs, desires, and struggles does not build intimacy. To build intimacy requires you understand AND care! A compassionate response flows from caring and must accompany understanding to build a healthy marriage. Rhett Butler’s statement to Scarlet O’Hara, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” marked the end of their relationship. He understood her desire. He understood her need. He just didn’t care…and without a caring response, relationships die. How can you build compassion and caring into your marriage? Try these four action steps.

  1. Senior Couple - Kiss on the CheekBe responsive to your spouse. When you spouse turns to you with a need or desire, turn toward them. Turn away from the TV, your book, your phone, your game, or whatever else holds your attention and turn toward your spouse. Give them your attention so you can carry out the next two actions.
  2. Listen actively and intently. Take the time to ask questions and clarify what your spouse is trying to say. Listen with your heart as well as your head. Hear the emotions and motivations behind your spouse’s words.
  3. Replace snap judgments with possibilities. Rather than dwelling on your first reaction and initial judgement of your spouse’s words or actions, consider possible reasons for their behavior. What may motivate their behavior? What emotions may drive their behavior? Are there past experiences that may spur this behavior?
  4. Give your spouse unanticipated compliments. Compliment your spouse’s appearance. Thank your spouse for tasks completed. Compliment your spouse for an act of kindness or a firm boundary or any other positive, kind, or special action.


Following these four steps can transform mere understanding into compassionate caring…and that will build a healthier, more intimate marriage.  By the way, these four action steps can help you raise compassionate caring children as well. As a bonus, here are three more action steps to raise compassionate caring children and nurture compassionate caring in every family member!

  1. Build an emotional vocabulary. The greater our ability to identify and express emotions, the greater our ability to feel compassion. Nurture a broad, extensive vocabulary for emotional expression by labeling emotional experiences, reading and recognizing the emotions of various characters in novels, discussing the motivating emotions of movie characters, and, most importantly, openly discussing emotions as they arise in your family.
  2. Give clear reasons for the rules. Explain how behaviors impact other people and rules help limit behaviors that negatively impact other people. Quietly and politely point out how your child’s behavior impacts people around them. Discuss how the behaviors of TV or novel characters impact those around them. Perhaps most important, acknowledge how your behavior impacts other people, including your spouse and children.
  3. Provide hands-on opportunities to practice compassionate caring. Share with those in need. Bake a casserole for those who suffer some loss. Get a drink for another family member when you get your own. Practice simple, every day acts of compassionate caring.


Together, these seven action steps will add compassionate caring to understanding in your family. Compassionate caring will nurture intimacy and relational health. Instead of hearing “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” you will hear, “Really, my dear, what can I do to help?” “What can I do to help?”…What a wonderful question to hear within the walls of our homes!

Welcome to the Family Games

We love to watch competitions—to see our favorite athlete in the Super Bowl, the Olympics, Lively family playing tug of warthe World Series, the World Cup, or any number of various competitions. Many of us also love to compete. Competition hones our skills and motivates us to improve. Why not use that competitive spirit for good in your home?  Let the power of competition motivate your family to reach new heights of intimacy, fun, and camaraderie. Maybe some of these family competitions will help your family hone skills that will strengthen your family.

  • The Race of Apologize. We all do things from time to time that hurt members of our family. But, you can be the first to apologize for the hurt you cause. Cross the finish line to apologize first and win the joy of restored relationships. Take a victory lap and enjoy the newfound freedom of knowing you took the monkey of guilt off your back and opened the door to deeper intimacy when you apologized for the hurt your cause.
  • Score a Compliment. I can hear the announcer now… “He takes a step toward the table and looks at the food. He smiles. He shoots…a compliment;” or, “Wow that compliment was the perfect shot;” or, “He sees his wife’s look of confusion. She doesn’t understand his compliment. Look at that—he recovers and compliments again.” Imagine a simple comment like “Supper really smells good” followed by the announcer—“What a shot, straight to the net. His kids nod in agreement. His wife’s eyes sparkle and her smile grows. And, he scores!” That’s how to score a compliment. Keep track one day to see who offers the most or greatest number of sincere complements over the course of day…shoot and score!
  • The Kindness Swish. Acts of kindness will surely score you points in the family games. Most acts of kindness are shot from the 3-point line: hold the door—3 pointer, give a backrub—3 pointer, give a hug—3 pointer, do the dishes—3 pointer, throw in a load of laundry—3 pointer, bring home some flowers—3 pointer…the list goes on. As you can see, The Kindness Swish is a high scoring game. Points add up quickly and relationships grow exponentially!
  • Politeness Polo. We do not play politeness polo as much as we used to; but, it is a fast-paced family game filled with anticipation and action. In this family game you score big points by “hitting it with politeness.” You know, statements like “Thank you,” “Please,” “Excuse me,” “Sorry,” “My pleasure,” “You’re welcome,” and “Let me help you” become big scoring runs. This is a fast paced game with family members having the potential for scoring as many five to ten times in a matter of minutes.  Imagine the scoring sequence (scoring is capitalized): “Will you take out the garbage, Kids on Victory PodiumPLEASE?” “MY PLEASURE.” “THANK YOU.” “YOU’RE WELCOME.” We have four scores in mere seconds! Imagine the score over the course of a day!
  • Out of the Park. This game is a hard hitting game of grace. Showing grace will “hit it out of the park.” You can show grace by giving your spouse, your kids, or your parents a gift with no expectation of anything in return. To become a really good player of Out of the Park demands sacrifice, but the benefits are worth it! Hit it out of the park by doing someone else’s chore for them, giving up the last cookie, letting someone else sit in your favorite seat, giving up your free time to help another family member with some task, giving up your right for an apology to apologize first, giving up your choice of movie and going to one your wife likes…with no strings attached. You get the idea, give up your desire and fulfill another family member’s desire to “hit it out of the park,” a grand slam over center field!


Try these games out. They are easy, fun, and add joyous intimacy to family life. Maybe you have some other family game ideas. Please share them with us…we’d love to play. Now, let the family games begin!

3 Steps to Sweet Complaining

Person Annoyed by Others TalkingIt had been a long day. I came home from work exhausted and the moment I walked in the door–BOOM—my spouse bombarded me with questions: “Did you put the concert in your calendar?” “Do you know where that receipt is?” “School’s cancelled tomorrow. Will you be home?” “Kaitlyn got invited to….” My head began to spin and I began to hear the sounds adults make on Charlie Brown…”Blah, blah-blah blah, blah.” I had a little question of my own to answer: How do I escape? I wanted to scream…or turn around and walk back out the door to get a breather…or go into the bathroom and “pretend to be occupied by the call of nature.” I don’t know…I had to do something though!


Have you ever run into a situation like that, a situation in which you have a legitimate complaint but you don’t know how to address it? We all have. I watched “Saving Mr. Banks” recently (an excellent movie, by the way) and was reminded of an excellent solution. Mary Poppins gives the solution when she sings “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down…in the most delightful way.” Complaints, like many medicines, have a bitter taste to the one receiving it. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth, elicits defensiveness, and can make a person feel unappreciated. The residual bad taste, feelings of defensiveness, and a feeling of being unappreciated make it difficult for the person receiving the complaint to hear it or understand it. Instead, they might feel hurt or angry. You can avoid this by offering the complaint in “a spoonful of sugar!” Here is how to do it.


First, step back for a moment and think about the other person’s intent. What are they trying to accomplish with the behavior that you want to complain about? What contributes to their action? In my example, my wife is an incredible planner and organizer. Without her planning I would not get near as much done as I do and our family would miss out on so many opportunities. The positive intention of her behavior is making sure our family is on the same page, that I do not miss any important events, and the each person’s needs are met.


Second, appreciate and admire that intention. Take a moment to realize the benefit of the other person’s work. Allow it soak in. admire that person for their desire to bring something good and positive into your life. In my example, I can appreciate how smoothly our family functions and how many activities and opportunities we engaged in because of my wife’s planning. I can admire her for her selfless work in making our family life better.


African American Couple Laughing On The FloorThird, tell the other person. Tell them how much you admire and appreciate them (step two). Then, convert your complaint into a simple statement of need.  Explain in one statement what your family member can do to help you. A practical example from my situation…”I really appreciate how you keep things organized for our family. In fact, I am amazed at how much we are able to do because of your efforts and how much you accomplish. One of the things I love about you is your ability to organize and how you use that ability to help our family do so many fun things. And, I am glad to answer questions. But, when I come home could we postpone the questions until we greet each other and have 10-15 minutes of down time and small talk?” There it is, a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down…in the most delightful way.


Quit complaining. Offer your legitimate concerns with a spoonful of sugar. A little love and admiration and a practical statement helps a concern “go down…in the most delightful way.”

4 Resolutions to Transform Your Family This Year

I hope you had a great Christmas enjoying your family and recalling the birth of Christ. With 2012 fast approaching, you may be thinking about New Year’s resolutions. Many people establish goals and resolutions with the intent of making their lives better. As you consider resolutions, consider that research suggests a happy family will add years to life while a conflict-ridden family will increase your risk for illness. With that in mind, let me suggest 4 New Year’s resolutions that can build happiness for your family in 2012.
      1.      Resolve to ensure your family members feel understood by you, especially when you get the urge to defend yourself. Do you ever get that urge to defend yourself? I do. I want to make sure they understand me and the reasons for my actions. When we get that urge to defend, stop. Before doing anything else, make sure the person you are talking to feels understood by you. Restate what you believe they intend to say. When they respond with a “Now you understand” or something like that, you have successfully reached understanding. Your family member feels understood. Then, and only then, can you offer your explanation for them to understand. Sometimes, once you understand them you may realize you have no need to defend yourself.
2.      Go a step further and resolve to work hard at truly understanding your family members, especially when you feel misunderstood. When you feel misunderstood by family members, you can bet that they feel misunderstood as well. Use that feeling of being misunderstood as a signal that you need to work harder to understand your family. Quit thinking about your response, explanation, or defense and focus all your energy on listening more closely. Listen to understand the intent of their statement and the emotion behind their statement. Ask questions to clarify what they mean…intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Doing so communicates love and respect. It lets family members know that you value them and what they have to say. As you understand them, you will find them understanding you better as well.
3.      Resolve to compliment your family members, especially when you feel like criticizing them. When you get the urge to criticize a family member, step back and consider the behavior you want to criticize. For instance, you want to watch TV and your wife is running the sweeper, or, you want to clean the house and your husband is sitting on the porch relaxing. Look for some aspect of that behavior that you can praise or appreciate. Your wife is running the sweeper and you can appreciate how neat she keeps your home. Your husband is sitting on the porch and you can appreciate the work he has done prior as well as his ability to relax. After you have the compliment in mind, go to them, offer the compliment and even put it into action. Stand up, help your wife clean for a time and tell her how much you appreciate the work she does around the house. Stop cleaning, take a moment, and sit on the porch with your husband. Let him know how much you appreciate the work he has done and how much you enjoy sitting with him, relaxing with him, and enjoying his company. This compliment will get you much further than the criticism.
4.      Resolve to read at least one book on family life this year. We study those things we find interesting and valuable. We invest time in learning about work to become better employees. We study sport statistics because we enjoy sports. We watch entertainment news because we enjoy learning about our favorite stars. Really, what could be more valuable than your family? And, in my opinion, nothing is more interesting than family life. So, invest in your family by reading a book or attending a workshop. You can read a book on parenting, marriage, or general family life. You can read it individually or together. Our book, FAMILY BY GOD’S DESIGN, focuses on family in general and offers practical ways to implement honor, grace, and celebration in your family. Other great books can be found on our website at … and some of our favorites at Our Favorite Picks. Whatever you choose, resolve to read one book on family this year.
That’s it—four resolutions for 2012 that can transform your family life. I hope you have a wonderful new year of family honor, grace, and celebration.

The Tongue in the Family Bank of Honor

The tongue is an amazing muscle. Actually, it is much more than a muscle. We use our tongue to taste and to talk. We may even stick it out in a playful or nasty manner. We can use our tongue to say the most wonderful, funny words or to say terribly, hurtful things. Not only is the tongue versatile, it is powerful. One ancient writer said that “death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Proverbs 18:21) and “the north wind brings forth rain: so does a backbiting tongue an angry countenance” (Proverbs 25:23). That is power for such a small part of the body. In fact, another ancient writer compared the tongue to the rudder of a great ship…a small part of the ship but one that controls the direction of the ship, even in a storm (James 3:5). The tongue is small, versatile, and powerful…and you can use it to build intimacy in your family or to destroy your family.
Yes, the tongue is small, versatile, and powerful. It can accomplish great things for the family or it can quickly crush your family, build intimacy between family members or destroy family members. Consider how the tongue can crush family members and make huge withdrawals from the Family Bank of Honor:
·         Complaining
·         Blaming
·         Nagging
·         Criticizing harshly
·         Arguing and fighting
·         Discourage
·         Curse
·         Screaming and yelling at one another
·         Talking over one another
·         Name calling
·         Lying & deceiving
·         Slander
On the other hand, the tongue can accomplish so much for the family, making multiple deposits into the Family Bank of Honor. The tongue can build intimacy and love. Consider some of the good things the tongue can do.
·         Compliment
·         Praise
·         Encourage
·         Thank
·         Express love for one another
·         Use polite words
·         Comfort
·         Affirm
·         Build up
·         Offer constructive criticism
·         Apologize
·         Share wisdom
·         Kinds
·         Bless
·         Speaks truth gently
The tongue is small but mighty…you can use it to build up or tear down, bless or curse, encourage or discourage family, to make deposits or withdrawals into the Family Bank of Honor. The choice is yours!

Relationship Training for Trouble Areas

Family relationships demand an investment of time. You practice the daily routine to strengthen the core muscles of relationship. The exercises noted in “the strength workout” focus on more specific skills and muscles necessary to strengthen relationships–becoming a student of the other person’s non-verbal communications and love language as well as learning to collect moments of emotional connection. Still, trouble areas arise. Areas where you want to develop more definition and long-term character to your relationship physique. Here are a couple of exercises that can help tone those trouble spots and enhance overall relationship strength. You may resist these exercises at first; but, they can truly benefit your family relationships.

The first exercise involves turning criticisms into compliments. It involves three steps.

1) To begin, identify something a family member did today that you found irritating…something you wanted to criticize. Perhaps you wanted to sit down to talk and your wife just had to clean the room instead…or you were trying to get dinner together and your husband was in the way talking about his day. Maybe your child was excitedly talking about something that happened in school while you were having a conversation on the phone with a client. Whatever the case, recall the behavior you found irritating, the behavior you wanted to criticize.

 2) Before you criticize that behavior, step back and look for any aspect of that behavior that you can appreciate. In the examples above, you may love that your wife keeps such a neat home or that your husband really does want to tell you about his day. You can rejoice that your child wants to share their excitement with you, a parent. Take time to personally appreciate that positive aspect of the situation. Enjoy what that means to you and your family.

 3) Finally, use that appreciation to offer that person a compliment. Go to that family member and tell them about the part you appreciate. Praise them for what they did.   Let them know how much it means to you that they exhibit that behavior you appreciate.  

 The second exercise sounds more simple, but can still prove challenging at times. It involves only one motion. That’s right, one single motion…smiling. Let your family see you smile. Smile when you greet family members. Let them see the twinkle of delight in your eyes when they walk into the room. Smiling when family members approach communicates acceptance, approval, and love. Sometimes you may not feel like smiling. You may feel irritated or tired. Practice smiling anyway. Let a smiling face full of delight and love be the first image that comes to mind when your family thinks of you.

The final exercise to build definition and address trouble areas involves lifting logs. This exercise also involves three steps.

1) When you find yourself in an argument with a family member, step back and lift the logs from your own eye instead of attempting to “win” the argument. Before you try to explain, justify, or defend your actions, take a private, honest look at your own motives, goals, and manner of expression. Consider your contribution to the argument. Think about any ways in which you instigate or perpetuate the conflict. Examine any underlying feelings such as fear or insecurity. (Intense anger within a family often hides a fear that the relationship is threatened or a strong desire for security and connection within the relationship.)

2) As you discover your underlying emotions, realize that your family members probably feel the same way. Consider how you can help meet that need in their life, even as you work to resolve a disagreement. (After all, you do love them.)

3) Then, return to the family member, logs removed, and calmly discuss the disagreement. As you can see, this exercise involves a great deal of practice, commitment, and discipline. However, the benefits in relationship development are tremendous.

 These three exercises can help you tone those trouble spots, develop more definition, and produce more long-term character in your relationship physique.