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Pop Culture Incorporated: If You Give a Colleague a Compliment

I’ve nev­er been a big fan of rodents, but when they come bear­ing com­pli­ments, that’s anoth­er story.

When I opened my email last week I was greet­ed with a delight­ful sur­prise: a mes­sage from Lau­ra Numeroff, cre­ator of the beloved “If You Give a Mouse a Cook­ie” books.

You remem­ber them: the New York Times-best­selling children’s series that high­light what hap­pens when you gra­cious­ly offer an ani­mal what it wants – whether it’s feed­ing a moose a muf­fin or serv­ing a pig a pan­cake. Spoil­er alert: They keep on ask­ing for more. It may start with a pas­try, but it esca­lates – first to a glass of milk, then a straw, then a nap­kin, and on and on.

Numeroff had just stum­bled upon “The Total­ly Sweet ‘90s” — one of the books I wrote with Gael Fash­ing­bauer Coop­er high­light­ing our favorite pop cul­ture mem­o­ries, which includ­ed the icon­ic “If You Give…” books and Laura’s oppor­tunis­tic li’l rodent — and she want­ed to pass along her thanks.

It didn’t mat­ter that our book hit store shelves eight and a half years ago. Her kind words res­onat­ed as strong­ly if we’d just sold our first copy.

It was yet anoth­er reminder of just how pow­er­ful grat­i­tude can be — a brief, authen­tic note or pos­i­tive word can make a decid­ed­ly un-mouse-like impact. Research agrees: Grat­i­tude has been proven to make peo­ple feel val­ued. In fact, kind words are processed by the brain so strong­ly, they’re per­ceived as pos­i­tive­ly as a finan­cial reward. Pos­i­tive feed­back can even help mit­i­gate stress in the work­place, espe­cial­ly if you can cre­ate a long-term cul­ture of gratitude.

Pass­ing along a thank-you or com­pli­ment is free, and it takes just a sec­ond. Lau­ra Numeroff and her books have been the sub­ject of gal­lons and gal­lons of ink over the years (with ultra-high-pro­file fans like Oprah, Lau­ra Bush and Michelle Oba­ma), and yet she still took the time to jot an email to express her grat­i­tude, then post on Face­book about how hon­ored she was to be fea­tured in our book. It meant a lot.

In Numeroff’s sto­ries, the mouse and its friends are giv­en an inch, and they ask for a mile. But a com­pli­ment works dif­fer­ent­ly. It fills your buck­et and inspires you to pay it forward.

What hap­pens if you give a col­league – or even a com­plete stranger – a compliment?

Odds are they’ll give one to some­one else, too.

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