The Hair Lady
"I love your hair!"
How did she react?
"Oh, sorry, I got you wrong before. In that case: Thank you!"
How did I feel?
I have a routine. I realized that today. While I still feel into every compliment moment as deeply as I can the moment's frame has become a pattern:
1-I spot someone, or something.
2-I notice my feelings, maybe get insecure and have a silent discussion with myself. I give myself a push.
3-I walk up the person and say. "Hi! I am doing a project in which I compliment one person per day for one year and write about it. Today you are my candidate."
4-Then I tell them what I noticed and liked about them.
5-The person reacts in their unique way, I react to that, maybe we chat, maybe not.
6-I give them the blog's address and tell them to email me if I write something they don't approve of.
7-I ask them whether I can take their picture
8-We say goodbye (or don't, but the particular compliment moment is over)
This applies to compliments I pay strangers. With people I know it works differently.
I started explaining about the project before complimenting early in the game, back in July. I noticed: It made it easier for people to open up because they could see where this was coming from and that I did not want them to sign anything, or pay, or both. Today made me see that it's not always easier that way. Here's what happened: I passed an older woman, she was about 80, at the store. Her hair styling reminded me of my grandma's. As a kid I used to watch my Oma do her hair for hours and hours, combing, blow drying and spraying it into all directions. Her hairdo would make her grow two inches and still look elegant- a masterpiece considering that her hair was two inches long altogether. Then when today's lady had that same hairdo I thought "Wow, this looks impressive", and: "I know exactly how much of an effort this takes." I saw her again at the register and decided she was my candidate. I waited till she had been checked out, then started my standard procedure. Between point three and four she interrupted me and said, "No, thanks." And I was: Heavily irritated. This had not happened before. Something in me sensed that she had misunderstood me. When I passed her on my way out I said, "I am going to tell you this anyway: I really like your hair." She stopped, I continued to walk. She cried, "Wait! I'm sorry, I got you wrong back there, I thought you were a journalist." I said, "No no, I'm not, I just wanted to compliment you. "Aw," she sighed, "I am sorry, and thank you for your compliment! I do my hair myself!" With pride glowing in her eyes she explained, "It takes flair!" I nodded and told her about my grandma. We smiled at each other, then said goodbye.
She got me thinking: I am sure she would have said "Thank you, how sweet of you!" If I had not mentioned the project at all. She was so turned off by my introduction I almost missed the moment. I learned: My routine is not an all round template after all.
I love that she challenged me to be more spontaneous instead of using that situation frame of mine, because it makes me be more awake and aware again. It inspires me to feel the other person, the moment more intensely then I would just pulling the introduction out of my pocket. This way there is more potential for different situations, too. Being present: One of my general life goals. Thanks for reminding me of that, dear Hair Lady!