When compliments are contagious

Like most great things, it happened as an accident. The craft group wasn’t quite done and the Guides I was working with couldn’t handle another running game. So we sat in a circle and caught our breath.

“I have an idea,” I said. “Everyone write your name on one of these pieces of paper and throw them in the middle.”

Once done, I said, “Grab a name and say what you most like about that person.”

We went around the circle, each girl pulling a name and coming up with something simple or profound or absolutely wonderful. Answers ran the gamut from “She’s really nice,” to “I like how she always takes time for me,” to “She’s a great patrol leader.”Feb25_Compliments

Some of my favourites included “She’s really quiet but I know I can always count on her,” and “She welcomed me when I was new.” Our two Girl Assistants, both Rangers, said, “She’s the Sam to my Dean,” referencing their favourite TV show. When it was my turn, I happened to pick the name of a quiet girl and I had the opportunity to compliment her on her amazing courage for always trying everything and not giving up.

The best thing happened when a girl couldn’t think of something to say. She floundered and paused and then the rest of the group exploded with suggestions: “She’s a great singer!” “She’s my best friend!” and then the free-for-all began. Compliments were being lobbed faster than we could hear. It was contagious and the girls were enjoying the complimenting as much as the compliments.

“Sunset!” the girls exclaimed, as they pointed to my fellow Guider. “We have to go get her!” We pulled the Guider from the craft table so she could hear what we all thought about her. We pulled everyone into the compliment circle.

It ended as naturally as it began, but I know many of the girls came away feeling recognized and maybe even encouraged by the honest sharing of appreciation. I know I feel amazing after hearing that I am “inspirational.”

When I was a Girl Guide growing up in Regina, Saskatchewan, I have a memory of a Guider complimenting me (thanks, Jo, wherever you are). This became one of the key memories in my life and a building block for who I became as an adult. I am now honoured to be in a position to look for opportunities to start building blocks in the lives of these amazing girls. Just imagine where they can grow with one building block to start from.

Guest post by Kathleen Dueck, a Unit Guider in Mississauga, Ontario.

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3 Responses to When compliments are contagious

  1. We just did something similar at camp. A few of our pathfinders were having self image issues so during campfire we had everyone sabone nice thing about each girl and then they had to say way they like about themselves. We felt it worked really well and it was great to hear what everyone had to say.

  2. Jo Szostak says:

    Hi Kathleen,
    What a wonderful story! I’m sure that your girls all went home with a boost to their self-esteem. I’m impressed that you came up with that idea on the fly and it was a perfect activity for the circumstances. Good stuff!
    I was also touched by your reference to an incident that I can’t remember, but that obviously had an impact on you! It shows how important our interactions as leaders are to our girls. I’m pleased to see that you are a Guider and doing such a great job! I’ve often wondered about you and your mom, after you moved from Regina to Mississauga.

    – Jo

  3. Em says:

    My unit did something similar, only for themselves. As part of a larger activity, I asked them to write down something that makes them happy, something they’re good at, and something they like about themselves. It nearly broke my heart when one of my third years said she couldn’t think of anything for the third one… and then mended it entirely when all the girls started throwing out suggestions. “You’re funny!” “You always have really great ideas!” “I can always tell your crafts because they’re wild!” By the time it ended, she was smiling.

    Great girls, my girls. I’m so proud of them.

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