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Try not to be too much of a c— today

In one of his Edinburgh shows, my sometime colleague/friend/slightly scary presence in the room Brendon Burns claimed that he’d read the Bible and the Koran, and the message of both could be distilled down to the sentence above. (I feel stupid censoring the word cunt from the title my own blog, particularly as I’ve now written it in the text, but people do get upset about language and, although they’re wrong, I don’t have the energy to take up the argument with them all over again.) As we approach the end of the third week of TYSIC, it might be worth thinking about some of the small ways we can aim towards this goal, which is, indeed, the main idea underlying our self-improvement programme and all attempts at self-improvement.

Inspired by last week’s TYSIC champ Amy who used ‘not being lazy’ as a launchpad to take on a personal challenge as specific as daring herself to eat cheese, I’ve been trying to think laterally this week about ways I can make myself a brighter, more optimistic person: things I can do which will bring about a general rise in positivity, rather than just walking around muttering ‘everything’s going to be fine, everything’s going to be fine’ (although I have been doing that as well). 

Taking my lead this time from Laura, I decided it would be nice to try and give someone a compliment every day. Provided that it doesn’t backfire (as can happen with a compliment like ‘your breasts are extraordinarily large and round’, or ‘I wish I could smell you all day, your perfume is so perfect’, or ‘your weight issues are finally starting to turn around’), saying something nice to somebody is one of the most surefire ways of feeling better yourself. In the same way that giving a good present is, just like adults always used to insist when we were kids, better than receiving one. Unless you receive something truly awesome like a big gold clock or a prize pig.

Of course, compliments would be rather hollow if you only gave them as part of a systematic campaign of compliment-giving. But in truth, there are loads of situations every day where you think something nice about a person and just don’t vocalise it, because it’s quite awkward being a human as it is, and it very often seems too much of a gamble to risk even more awkwardness by saying ‘that coat’s very nice’. So I’m not going to start throwing around compliments I don’t mean. But I’m going to be less backward in advertising nice thoughts. I’m pretty sure this will be a sneaky route to feeling sunnier in general.

I began this yesterday at my gig, but really badly. It was a corporate awards thing (the Institute of Customer Service Awards, in fact. Waitrose were among the winners). The photographer had had a terrible day, her laptop had been stolen and she wasn’t going to get home until 2am. She’d had a baby four months ago and mentioned how tired she was. She was very pretty in an unassuming way and I was tempted to say something to the effect that she didn’t look as tired as she claimed to be. Shyness stopped me from doing so. So I ended up complimenting of the organisers on how well the event had gone, and telling Chris Addison over Twitter how much of an influence he’d been on my career. They both seemed pleased. But imagine how much more pleased the exhausted, discouraged photographer would have been.

So that’s me: a compliment a day in addition to my other TYSICers. You might like to try this, or if not this, some other small resolution once a day. One thing about some of the TYSICs nominated is that they are enormous, difficult tasks, and some challengers have been too daunted by the scale of their own ambition to get started properly. Perhaps setting yourself a small one-a-day target is a way in to something bigger.

Also, thanks to everyone for their reviews of crisps, Glee, Sophie Dahl, and so on (see yesterday’s blog). We’ve had nearly 100. Keep them coming and I will collate the results shortly.

Also also (my personal phrase for one also on top of another). This is a more minor undertaking than the reviews, but I was thinking it would be nice to collect people’s eavesdroppings. As you might gather from my stand-up shows, forthcoming novel and general ramblings, I’m a little bit obsessed by the way that all our lives have an effect on each other, even on people we don’t even know. One of the constant reminders of this is when you hear a tiny little bit of someone else’s conversation: a few seconds’ glimpse into a world you will never meet properly, but can still imagine.

So today, for example, I was crossing the road with the wife and baby, and we heard a blonde lady on the phone say ‘I’m so excited about your blood tests, man!’ What was the story? A friend with a disease who’d just been given the all clear? A relative who had just started working for the NHS? Impossible to know, and that’s what it makes it fun. If you overhear anyone say anything funny/suggestive/peculiar, share it with this blog and we will try to work out what was going on. I won’t use any of them on stage. Unless they’re too good to resist.

Right. So post something you’ve overheard; give someone a compliment or do something similar every day; review yesterday’s subjects;  or failing all that, keep living your life as before. See you tomorrow.

63 Responses

  1. Kate says:

    Giving someone a compliment every day’s a lovely idea; even from a complete stranger, I do think it’s always appreciated. (I enjoyed Mark’s exchange of compliments with Chris Addison via Twitter very much – genuinely brightened my day!)
    If you find giving compliments tough/insincere, you could try thanking someone instead or letting them go first. I occassionally have a random acts of kindness day; tiny kindnesses, but letting people go ahead of me, saying thanks, holding doors open etc does seem to produce greater cheerfulness. I’m stopping now, before I turn into Pollyanna….

  2. Anji says:

    The compliments thing has got me thinking I should work at giving them! I get so tounge tied when someone is nice to me:
    them: happy birthday
    me: you too! Errrr
    not quite the way. I ended up thanking someone at the vets the other day when they said my dig was lovely, how ok’d is she. Thank you is a new age, ok?!
    So I will work harder on being more confident and therefore able to compliment others and accept what is said to me!

  3. Sue says:

    I was with my teenage daughter tonight browsing around the ladies underwear section of Target and I overheard a voice in the next aisle. “I have to get the big supported ones or they bounce out.” I had to run away to laugh out of earshot. :)

    As for compliments I’ve had a few this week; they made me feel lovely. I went for an interview (and got the job!) I was told later by the agency that the prospective employers had found me ‘delightful and quirky’.

  4. EmmaT says:

    Walking into interesting conversations seems to be my forte…I just went to make some tea, walked back into the office and walked into the conversation just as my friend said “right breast”… quite loudly as well.

  5. Hannah says:

    My husband walked past a vicar saying ‘soooo, I kept that one quiet obviously’ while tapping his nose…

  6. Lynsey says:

    This from an old woman who was in my workplace today:

    “I don’t drink, but I have a glass of wine sometimes.”

  7. Hannah says:

    Overheard at uni yesterday:

    “Yeah, but my neighbour is really old. I think she’s on her way out: she can’t reverse her car anymore.”

  8. Megan says:

    Many days later, I overheard this from a customer on his mobile in the balcony of the cinema (before the film started):

    “You have to let it go. You have to let it go. Your loss is your gain. Your loss is MY gift.”

    Creepy. Ran downstairs right quick.

  9. Matthew says:

    Grossiest Eavesdropping ever:
    Characters: 4 very posh girls fresh out of uni, working in PR in London.
    Setting: A Very busy Manchester Piccadilly to Euston express train.
    Eaves Dropping: The full in depth discussion of one girls sexual encounter with a guy she’d only just met, in a bush in a park, followed up by slagging off their collective bosses by name.

    My ponderance: Are they morons? There were easily 80 odd people who could hear every word they were saying.

  10. Laura B says:

    I am very excited and honoured. Partly because you took inspiration from me. Partly because you wrote a blog about it. Partly because the title of the blog is one of my favourite Brendon Burns quotes and a way I try to live my life.
    Big smiles!

  11. Laura B says:

    Also, one of my favourite overheard conversations was on a train. A woman was saying how since the credit crunch began, more people have been reading the works of Karl Marx. Her smug theory on this was that he wrote “Mein Kampf”, which means “My Struggle” and people are struggling in the credit crunch.

    There was a really long awkward pause before her companion pointed out that it was Hitler, not Marx, who wrote “Mein Kampf”.

    Good times…

  12. Knox says:

    I love the thought that Brendon Burns has read the qur’an – i don’t know why, but that blows my mind a little, just picturing it… and the distillation is perfect too – though not sure how that’d go down as a sermon at the local mosque. though actually, given nigerian accents people would probably be like: ‘what did he say? try not to be too much of account today? oh-ho – wise words!’, so, not so exciting after all.

    i like the compliment thing. people do get really pleased when you compliment them genuinely, and there’s a definite warm glow thing for you in return. another thing i try to do (probably from having worked about two weeks in a call centre) is attempt to always be nice, or at least polite, to call centre workers. and especially to tell someone if you feel they’ve been particularly heplful and/or friendly and/or nice. it’s like getting a virtual hug when their tone becomes all pleased.
    and lastly, remembering and using people’s names when you ring customer service, and they help you. my sister works on a couple of helplines, and she says it’s always nice when people actually remember her name at the end of a call, she doesn’t feel so much like just another drone.

  13. Knox says:

    can’t think of any overheard snippets at the moment, except for one from years ago, travelling up to edinburgh – a man encouraging his son to pull out a wobbly tooth: ‘look, i’ll count you in, then you just pull on three. one…two…three… well done – oh yes, it is bleeding a bit…’

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