I've been on a journey the last few years of intentionally speaking positive words to others. Here's what I've found.
This journey started because I realized that some of my friendships lasted long term and other friendships would fade away. I thought about the friendships that faded and realized that in those instances, we were usually more just friends of convenience. It was easy to hangout with each other and we got along well enough so we did. The problem is that looking back, whether I admired the person or not, I realized I can't say for certainty they respected or admired any quality in me other than just enjoying my company. I also saw that in my longer lasting friendships, I tended to know more precisely what they found admirable in me- though not always the case. I have some friendships where we've been friends for years and I honestly have no clue if they find anything of value in me besides the general enjoyment of company.
Now don't get me wrong. My friendships aren't about just me or people feeding my ego. But I do think that friendship needs to come from a deep and profound respect of the other person, and that usually entails thinking highly of them, and admiring positive traits.
I decided I wanted to be more intentional with my words. If I admired a trait in someone, I wanted to say it. I wanted to speak positive words about their strengths, their qualities and their lives. I wanted my friends to know specifically what I admired in them (not kind words for the sake of being kind, but real things I really meant). I wanted them to be sure that they weren't just a friendship of convenience but they were so profoundly respected. They were irreplaceable.
So I started speaking kind words to a lot more people, a lot more often. I found a few things:
1. Our friendships grew deeper and more vulnerable. When my friends started to hear that I admired them, they entrusted to me some of the desires of their hearts. They spoke to me of desiring to write or start something new or be entrepreneurial in some way or just making a big life decision. And when I affirmed their capabilities or their heart or their judgement they felt free. I feel like I started to get to know some of my friends a lot better.
2. I started thinking more positively about others. Once I got in the groove, I started to love telling people the truth of my great thoughts of them. I would tell acquaintances and friends of friends and even just friend crushes on IG what specific things I liked about them. It became second nature to genuinely compliment others. I was a lot less critical and a lot more supportive.
3. I noticed more often when people were hesitant to speak highly of others. When criticism became less of my life, it started to sound absurdly harsh when I heard others criticize and especially harsh the few times I myself criticized.
Have you told your friends recently what you find admirable in them? Let someone know why they're irreplaceable today!