It's true--we do underestimate the power of these
things. I'm not sure why. Perhaps we just
think that people don't really need our input in their
lives, or maybe we're just used to people not encouraging
us or sharing kind words or compliments with us. In
my case, when I was younger I never thought that my words
to others had the power to affect them at all, for
positive or negative; as I've aged, though, I've learned
that almost everything I say has some effect, somehow, and
not always how I'd like.
While we certainly don't want to overestimate the power of
things like these--we're not going to solve anyone's
problems with a listening ear, or completely turn their
lives around with a smile--we should always keep in mind
that the things that turn people's lives around generally
are a bunch of things together, and our smile or
compliment will be a part of a greater whole, a whole that
gives someone hope or peace, and that would be incomplete
without our contribution.
With my students, sometimes I find out years later that
some small compliment I gave them was important to them,
though I never would have guessed it. So I've given
up guessing, and whenever I might have any doubt, I give
the compliment or the kind word anyway--it's better to err
on the side of the positive than the negative.
Leo Buscaglia spent much of his life teaching us about the
power of loving one another, and he told us many beautiful
stories about love and loving. Here he tells us that
we do have power to help others, to make them feel good
about life and living. And if we do have that kind
of power in our hands, shouldn't we use it more?