The Best Compliment I Ever Received


Mama had significant concerns. Her daughter was barely speaking when we first met. We worked together for a year and a half. Two times a week, we sat on the living room floor, then at the dining room table, for intense speech-language therapy. A year and a half later, after all that therapy, after all that working together, mama’s baby girl was speaking like everyone else. I had the rare opportunity to discharge that sweet girl from speech-language therapy, no qualms, no second guessing about it.

It was beautiful. Incredibly beautiful. To bring a child from barely speaking at all, to testing “within normal limits” and speaking like all the other children her age is a true honor and pleasure.

But there was something else extraordinary about the year and a half I spent working with that mama and daughter.

My relationship with mama was special. Unique.

We clicked.

We got each other.

We totally understood each other.

Can I say it any other way?

I adored mama. Adored her.

She was smart, witty and quirky, full of little faults like everyone else. She was passionate and opinionated, strong-willed, fierce, motivated and determined. She knew what she liked in life, and she knew what she didn’t like. She knew what she needed as a mom and a wife, and wasn’t afraid to gift it to herself if necessary. She wasn’t like most of women I knew, and I loved that. I loved ALL those things about mama. But here’s what I absolutely adored about her. She had a soft side she barely, rarely let out. I saw it peek out here and there and it was so incredibly tender. I wondered if she’d been misunderstood more than once. I wondered if people didn’t always “get” her. I TOTALLY “got” her. And I’m pretty sure she TOTALLY “got” me, too.

It was beautiful.

I loved every bit of that mama.

Still do.

When we stood at the door that last day of therapy, when I’d reviewed the standardized test results that proved her daughter’s speech and language was now “within normal limits,” mama thanked me for all I’d done. She thanked me for how far I’d brought her daughter. She thanked me for all the therapy, for bringing her and her daughter through some really rough and uncertain times.

It was humbling, of course.

But then she said something else I’ll never, ever forget.

It was much, much more personal than speech-language therapy. And it meant the world to me.

“I don’t usually like people, but I like you.”

No doubt about it. That was the greatest compliment I’d ever received. Two years later, it’s STILL the greatest compliment I’ve ever received.

“I don’t usually like people, but I like you.” 

I’ve always perceived myself as a little mysterious, a little hard to read, a little hard to fully understand. I get that about myself. Just 1% of the general population has my personality type, so sometimes I’m not sure if I’m really jiving with everyone else’s more popular personalities.

So when that mama told me she “[doesn’t] usually like people,” but she likes me?!

Oh my goodness.

I totally knew her. I totally know myself. And I totally knew what she meant. So I totally took it as a HUGE compliment.

To be completely honest, I don’t really WANT to be like all the other people. I don’t really FEEL like all the other people. So the fact that she recognized that, the fact that she subconsciously felt that from me, and the fact that she was able to articulate it in a way that really meant something to me, was absolutely an honor.

So I’ve been pondering mama’s compliment – the best compliment I’ve EVER received – and have been wondering if there’s a take-away.

How can we compliment people in ways that mean something to them?

How can we compliment people in ways that build them up?

How can we move FROM “I love your haircut,” and “I love those boots,” TO “It seems like you always know when people need encouragement,” and “Did you that you’re the most generous person I know?”

How can we compliment people in ways that feel sincere and authentic?

How can we compliment people in ways that make them realize we’ve actually paid attention to WHO they are, HOW they operate, and WHAT makes them tick?

How can we compliment people in ways that really stick and stay with them?

How can we compliment people in ways that change they way they do life?

How can we compliment people in ways that bring out the best in them, not just for today, but for long-term always?

So many questions to ponder, but I think you get the point.

“I don’t usually like people, but I like you.”

It’s the best compliment I ever received.

Who can you compliment today? For real?

And if not today, who are you noticing so you can compliment them tomorrow or down the road when your words will mean even more?

Just asking.

Because honestly, I need to do the same.

Those words, those compliments, they’re a true gift if given wisely.



  1. Tom Baunsgard says:

    I really LIKE this post Amy! “Positively” great! Oh, and I like you too!

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