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Let's Be As Quick To Applaud As We Are To Complain

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A couple of years ago the manager at a car wash yelled at me and made me cry. I was a grown woman who had done nothing wrong, but my heart raced and I felt all shaky as he used four letter words that I’m too polite to repeat here. I couldn’t even make it home before I pulled into a random parking lot and pounded out a negative Yelp review.

One time, after seeing our favorite Broadway show, my husband and I went back to our historic hotel and ordered pizza for delivery. THREE HOURS and MANY unanswered phone calls later, our cold, gross pizza arrived in the hands of a man who could not have cared less. I used my hunger induced rage to complain the rest of the night.

I’m normally the girl that won’t send under cooked food back to the kitchen because I don’t want to hurt the cook’s feelings or create extra work for the server. I understand that we all have bad days and I’d rather extend grace than revenge, but sometimes an experience is so unprofessional or disrespectful that I feel some unspoken moral obligation to warn others. See also: I complain.

I’m bothered by how easy it is for us all to leave a negative review while taking for granted particularly positive experiences.

When I was a teenager, I attended a music festival every summer with my aunt. One year we arrived at our hotel and checked in to find that our room had not been cleaned after the previous guests. We went back to the front desk where my aunt explained the situation where a nice young man apologized and carried our luggage to a new room. When we returned home later that week, my aunt wrote a letter to the manager of the hotel. She didn’t complain about the dirty room, she praised the man who fixed the problem. She said that we should be as quick to applaud as we are to complain, and that has stuck with me for decades.

In the last week I’ve had three experiences in which a retail associate was particularly friendly and professional. A store clerk did his job while engaging with my daughter about a shirt she was super excited to purchase. He listened and responded to her excitement with a smile and conversation. A few days later, there was a line at the gas station counter and the cashier helped each person quickly without sacrificing good cheer. I watched as each customer ahead of me left with a smile. This weekend a small business owner/operator provided excellent service and a great product, obviously putting his passion to purpose. These people aren’t celebrities looking for fame or politicians seeking votes. They are normal people doing their jobs well and managing to be good humans in the process. Their positive attitudes made a happy impression on my day, I thanked them each for their help, wished them well, and took note of their names. Then I left great online reviews.

Today I wrote letters to two of their managers, explaining how their employee’s attitude and efficiency made a positive difference in my day and that I’d be back because of friendly and professional service. Maybe they’ll get a raise. Maybe the next time they are late for work, their boss will remember my letter and cut them some slack. Perhaps the only thing that will happen is that those individuals will see the words I wrote about them and know that they are valued. And that is enough for me.

I will continue to take note of the people who make the world a better place by doing their job well. I will let their goodness and effort change my day and the world for the better. I will put my fingers to the keys to leave good reviews. I will put pen to paper to write letters of praise. I will speak up and thank others in the moment. I will make a continual effort to be as quick to applaud as I am to complain.


For more stories on standing happily in the awkward middle of life, love, and parenthood, follow Happy Like This by Mandy McCarty Harris.

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