I want to take you with me to a city in Northern Germany: Lübeck. Maybe you heard about Lübeck, it is known for its candy which is called “Marzipan”. Marzipan is a mixture of rubbed almonds and sugar. Since I tried the special candy already a couple times, my attention has shifted to different things that the city has to offer. Besides the wonderful Christmas lights which shine so magnificently this time of the year, it was the “Gate of Compliments” that was catching my eye. This gate was placed in front of the famous “Holsten Tor”, a tourist attraction in the city of Lübeck. The Gate of Compliments fulfills a really important function in our society and for the city itself. When you go through that gate, the speakers compliment you! Those compliments were not connected with appearance, they are connected with strengths every single human being has. This gate is a symbol for the visualization that we can all get the same compliments because we are all the same. The gate compliments everyone, regardless of who is walking through it. It could be a 80-year-old woman, a 10-year-old boy or a 22-year-old student. Some of the compliments sound like: “Heaven has sent you”, “You are wonderful”, or “You are a special human being”.
Some may direct these compliments as an ego boost or as not really necessary, yet for me, it’s really what our society needs; more attention to see each other, to compliment each other and to appreciate our really being here. Sometimes, it is hard to make and get compliments for just being who we are without the context of creating or doing something. But those are the strongest, most revolutionary compliments that have the power to change something in us, and the person we are complimenting.
What is truly interesting, is that even younger people understand the difference between superficial compliments and the ones that are real. Hanna (name changed), a 17-year-old, told me that it is way easier to give compliments about our appearance, clothes or hairstyles than to tell somebody that you like a certain thing about their personality.
I haven’t found the one answer to explain this phenomenon, yet I think one big reason is the way we consume the world around us. We have so many options in choosing what we want to own, to underline us as a person. Moreover, it is easy to talk about the thing you like about someone that you can see, like appearances. It gets hard though when it is something we don’t see with our eyes, but with our heart. That might be the reason why deep compliments are rare, because we are afraid to see with our heart instead of our eyes.
I remember one situation on a flight from Greece to Austria last year that further embodies this phenomenon. I was working as a flight attendant on that flight and Amelie (name changed), a tan middle aged woman, entered the plane. Besides her remarkable first impression, Amelie was blind as well. We tend to forget that with our eyes, we can see exactly where we are, who sits next to us and who serves us on a plane. It wasn’t like that for Amelie who got on the plane with her other senses way more distinctive.
We had deep conversations about our life philosophies, about how we decide what clothes to wear and to summarize it, we helped each other understand our different worlds. At the end of the flight, this woman left the plane complimenting me about how grateful she was to get to know me and for our way of treating her. I could perceive her thankfulness in every cell of my body and knew that with her words, she made an effort that would impact me for a whole lifetime. I remember that woman and that flight like we were on it yesterday. That is another power of real compliments, you remember them because they went from one heart to another.
We underestimate the power of real compliments like the ones we get at the Gate of Compliments. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a compliment is a “remark that expresses approval, admiration, or respect”. I feel like we tend to get rid of those feelings by telling ourselves that we don’t need them. But it is something that lies dormant in us and wants to be awakened. To understand the magic of such deep and honest compliments, the story of Amelie might open your eyes towards the world of what I call “real compliments”.
Maybe different places or people find certain ways to spread real compliments in the world because that’s what we need to find and go our way. Meaningful compliments that lead us to our big dream, our way of life in the most personal and confident way. So, let’s share something real with words, that we all can give and receive.
Especially in the pandemic, it has been even more important to turn our heads towards the things we have control over to find a little magic in different moments in our lives. Let’s have a joyful winter season where we spread honest, powerful, and genuine compliments!
Cambridge Dictionary: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/de/worterbuch/englisch/compliment
drawing by iman