life skill

Illustration: Jen Troyer

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Who doesn’t do it? We see people we like, and we tell them we love their haircut or their sundress or their house or their beautiful German shepherd. It makes them feel good. It makes us feel good for making them feel good. And probably, the reason why we engage in this activity to begin with, is that we like the person, and when you like somebody, so much of what they buy, wear, arrange, choose and look like is fascinating.

On the other hand, telling somebody you admire how she kept her self-control and didn’t yell at her daughter after knocking an entire 2 pound sack of quinoa onto the floor, or that you loved how she stood up to the window-screen man who tried to charge her $700 for one screen and called her "Little Lady," takes just a bit more effort—and observation. It results, however, in somebody having one of the most amazing experiences on the planet—being seen. When you give this gift to somebody, you prove to them that all that stuff they are doing inside, all that trying to be the best person they can be (despite their past, their flaws, their doubts, their occasional total meltdown) is not in vain.

Next: 6 perfect times to tell the painful, ugly truth