Long before Chad and I began dating, he directed me in Hairspray at Riverwalk Theatre. I played Velma, the blond, villainous stage mother, so I had copious amounts of makeup and wigs to don prior to each show. One day, as the cast prepared backstage in the green room before a performance, Chad thoughtfully looked at me and asked one of those questions that I’ll never forget. It was a question that delved into the deep, innermost parts of my being…of my feminine identity…of my soul.
“Has anyone ever told you that you look like a gelfling?”
Why, no. As a matter of fact, no one ever had. Over the course of my lifetime, people have said many things about my physical appearance – some positive and others not so much – but never, ever had anyone compared me to the puppet star of a movie that would both thrill and haunt my childhood imagination, a Muppet sewn from fleece and other various materials, birthed out of the fertile mind of Jim Henson and his amazing team.
Definite bonus points for verbal creativity, Chad.
It’s a funny story to share with you, especially the part where Chad began to sincerely (and rapidly) explain to the room full of loudly reacting people why and how the remark was really the highest of compliments. But beyond the humor, there’s a lesson in creativity that we all could use.
People remember negative things far better than positive things. Earlier this year, the New York Times published an article explaining why praise is so fleeting.
“The brain handles positive and negative information in different hemispheres,” said Professor Nass, who co-authored “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships” (Penguin 2010). Negative emotions generally involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly than positive ones, he said. Thus, we tend to ruminate more about unpleasant events — and use stronger words to describe them — than happy ones.
Chad choose to deliver his compliment in such a creative, out-of-the-box fashion that it short circuited the way my brain processed the information. It forced me to ruminate (for a change) on a positive event. The originality of his compliment forever ingrained its message in my mind.
So…as you seek to use your words to paint beauty into the lives of those within your sphere of influence, invoke your creativity. Say things in new ways, with rarely used words, with unique similes. Your originality could mean the difference between your comments being throw-away words or becoming phrases that knit themselves into the fabric of someone’s very being.
In closing, I want to take this opportunity to publicly admit that, like Chad, I always believed that gelflings are extremely beautiful. Thank you for the compliment, dearest.