Compliments work

Out of breath, I had just finished a fast-ish almost-four-mile run in my neighborhood. I walked back from the finish line, cooling down in the autumn evening air. My time and speed wasn’t great. Not bad, but not great. I gave myself a mental “C” for at least doing the run, but not surpassing my personal standards.

I hadn’t taken more than ten steps when I saw my neighbor, Peggy, out walking her boxer, Lucy. I waved from the other side of the street, hoping that would forestall any actual conversation for two reasons. First, I was out of breath and could hardly speak. Second, I was feeling non-friendly in general. Peggy is a nice lady, but I’m a bit of a grump, especially lately.

“Hello!” she called. Apparently my tactic of pre-emptive non-verbal communication did not work.

“Hi,” I tried to project.

“Do you run every night?” Peggy asked.

“Every other day,” I answered, still walking.

“Oh.” She paused while Lucy sniffed a tree. “How far do you run?”

“Between 3 and 8 miles, depending.” I answered.

“Oh! That’s pretty good.” Lucy finished sniffing and continued on, pulling Peggy along. “That’s damned impressive, actually!”

“Thanks!” I called back. I still needed to cool down, but the compliment sank in and I felt a little bit better about my run.

There’s many folk who can run faster or farther than me – but there are many more folk who can’t do what I do at all. I’m probably on the right-hand side of the bell curve, and that feels good.