"A compliment is verbal sunshine."
- Robert Orben
A long time ago, a mentor explained to me why compliments are much more powerful when given indirectly through another person. Think about it for a minute. Which seems more powerful to you:
(A) Your boss tells you that you're doing a great job.
(B) You hear from a coworker that your boss has been saying what a great job you've been doing.
Let's try another scenario. Which is the stronger compliment:
(A) Your daughter tells you that you are the best parent in the world.
(B) You meet one of your daughter's friends. She says to you that your daughter is always talking about how she has the best parents in the whole world.
Are you getting the idea? We all tend to discount direct compliments. In the back of our mind, we suspect that our coworkers need something from us, our friends expect reciprocity, and even our family members may simply be using expected cliches. But when we indirectly hear that someone has been saying good things about us, we have far less reason to doubt their sincerity. It is like anti-gossip.
I don't find this concept to be mere theory. There were a few times in my life when I eventually found out that someone had been saying very positive things about me to other people, and it did indeed carry far more weight than if they had said it to me directly.
Giving is not just about money. You can give your time, your energy, your wisdom, and many other things. You can also give encouragement. And if you want to give a very special gift of encouragement, consider occasionally giving it indirectly as illustrated above. It may take a little longer, but the end result may be spectacular.