The Compliment Game
“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
It’s an adage often told to encourage good behavior to children (or to discourage rude behavior).
While its effectiveness may be debated considering some kids might stop talking altogether for a short period, it does hold some wisdom. Personally, I’ve since subscribed to a slight variation on the saying:
“If you can’t say something nice to say, find something nice to say.”
Not simply because it’s typically socially acceptable to say kind words, but because it’s all too easy to spread negativity. It comes almost naturally, at least to me. When someone does something contrary to what I’d find acceptable, it’s easy to point out the faults that lead to that action; to point out everything wrong with them or what they did. Not only is that mean, but it’s also not productive.
With that, I introduce The Compliment Game. It’s something I came up with during my days as a traveling salesperson. I typically set up a product display in a mall in whichever city I was in, and then I’d need to sell a certain amount of product to actually profit and earn a living. Some days were pretty good. So good that if every day were like that, I’d have been quite a wealthy man.
Some days were not so good. There were trips where my expenses would exceed my sales, and I’d be out several thousand dollars. A factor to that would be the disturbingly empty malls that I’d set up in, where I could go for as much as three hours without so much as seeing a customer roam the halls.
Typically the foot traffic was somewhere in between, with sales doing the same. I’m not the best salesperson by any means, but if I truly believe in a product, and it’s something I’m very interested in, then the sale tends to come naturally. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t learn this until after I got out of that business.
At the time, I was peddling plastic puzzle lamps. I wasn’t interested in the product myself, and most purchases were impulse buys from customers who felt the product looked cool. I felt a bit dishonest selling them since I advocate a minimalist lifestyle yet was selling what to me amounted to junk.
Now back to The Compliment Game. I couldn’t, in good conscience sell this product on how beneficial it’d be to their lives. So instead I opted to build relationships with customers. By doing that, I was able to gain sales because they wanted to support me as a cool self-employed youngish person building a business rather than a random guy peddling cheap lamps.
The conversations almost always began with me finding something about the potential customer to compliment early on. They’d go something like:
Me: “Hi, how are you doing?”
Customer: “Hey! I’m good, thanks.”
Me: “Good to hear! My name is Alex, nice to meet you” *smile* “I love your shirt by the way!”
Customer: “Thanks! You like [insert subject of whatever shirt print they’re wearing].”
Other compliments I’d mention are things like:
“I love your hair!”
“You have a really nice smile.”
“Your fashion sense is impeccable.” (yes, I did use that exact wording)
It might sound dumb, but it’s something that worked as well. There were many times when someone who wasn’t interested in buying my overpriced lamps would end up spending almost $200 after talking for a while. They might be awkward conversation starters, but I’d often at least make them laugh and then we’d get to know each other.
I’m still not adept at conversation. I’m normally quite introverted and don’t gravitate towards getting to know people for fun. But the compliment game taught me a way to be social when I need to be, and it’s been a useful tool for building valuable relationships, even when not selling something.
Start with a kind awkward compliment and a smile, make friends 🙂