What Is the Best Compliment You’ve Ever Received?

“A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but is miles ahead in results,” humorist Bennett Cerf once wrote. This month, readers share the praise that has made the most lasting impact.

Photo by Christopher Silas Neal

“Very bright” and “attractive.” A social worker used these words to describe me in the notes that she wrote during our first meeting. I was 16 and in need of foster care: My grandmother, who had been my primary caregiver, had died five years earlier, and since then I had struggled to find a permanent home. At that time, I was painfully insecure. But this assessment, which was on an official document, changed all that. The words were seeds of hope in my teenage years. They helped me become a successful, confident adult.

Barbara K. Hughes

Vacaville, California

Ever since I was little, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher so I could share my passion for reading. Needless to say, I was elated when one of my first-grade students said, “Mrs. Heckman, my sister told me that you have a special spell that makes kids love books.” Tears came to my eyes because I knew I had accomplished my goal.

Patti Heckman

Ripon, Wisconsin

After I helped my senior manager understand some data I had put together, he said, “My IQ goes up the minute you walk in my door.” His flattery made me want to work even harder.

Kalli K. Saland

Ankeny, Iowa

For several months after my husband’s passing, I attended the meetings of a bereavement support group. On my last day, Jill, our facilitator, said, “Kathy, how lucky Charlie was to be loved by you.” To this day, those words provide me comfort.

Kathy Hynes

Chicago, Illinois

I love working in an assisted-living home, but I rarely receive recognition for it. That’s why it was so meaningful when the daughter of a patient said, “You clearly have a gift for working with the elderly.” Remembering her kindness helps me stay motivated.

Emily Downey

Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

After working late for a few nights on a project, my husband came to me and said, “I need your help with something.” Then, almost to himself, he added, “I need you for everything.” It’s so wonderful to know that the man I love values me so much.

Sue Curtis

Troy, Ohio

When I was a young girl, I was self-conscious about my above-average height and size. When I told my aunt how awkward I felt my hands were, she said, “Those look like very capable hands to me!” Her compliment didn’t just help me stop hating my hands; it made me feel as if I could accomplish anything.

Lois Miller

Louisburg, Kansas