Brickbats and Bouquets


It occurs to me often that people are very quick to throw brickbats1, but seldom offer bouquets.

Years ago now, there was a women’s magazine that I used to read which had a section on the letters page where people were invited to nominate someone who had gone above and beyond the call of duty. The story would be published in just a couple of paragraphs and the magazine would send a bouquet to the nominee. One might be a hairdresser, for example, who had stayed late to make sure that a client had the perfect hair for an important occasion. Another might be a dustman who had bothered to bring the empty bins inside a property for an elderly person and tuck them away tidily instead of leaving them in the middle of the path outside. You get the idea.

I can’t remember what they actually called this section, but the paragraph which described it said something along the lines of:

“We are all so quick to throw brickbats when someone has annoyed us, but seldom bother to send a bouquet to those who have made us smile.  Today, Mrs X of Anytown would like to nominate …”

And it’s so true. We grumble about things that happen in our daily lives. We send angry letters, and we ring the management, and complain to the newspaper, or the next door neighbour, or the lady in the Post Office, and we criticise freely.  But how often do we take the time to actually thank someone properly, let alone write letters of commendation?

Since reading that magazine, I’ve tried to make a point of doing that, when I think of it. This morning, for instance, while I was at the doctor’s surgery for my appointment, I called at the medicines collection counter to thank the pharmacist for sorting out my husband’s inexplicably delayed prescription so that he had it on Christmas Eve instead of having to wait until after the holidays.  Her face lit up, and she smiled and thanked me for bothering to call in and do that. It’s such a simple thing, and it cost me nothing, and yet it brightened her day just a little bit.

Once you start to think along these lines, it’s amazing what you see. Do you know how many people go through supermarket checkouts without even making eye contact with the person behind the till?  Is it any wonder so many of them look terminally depressed?  Imagine how much it would change someone’s day if everyone smiled and thanked them.

Even though I am aware of all this, I’m conscious that I don’t do it enough, so I think that maybe this will be what passes for my New Year resolution: I will make more of an effort to connect with people, particularly people in service jobs – waiters & waitresses, till operators, bank clerks, bus drivers etc – and simply thank people when they deserve it. Maybe a good thing to do would be to send people a thank you card in the post in the old-fashioned way if they perform their duties extra-well … or better yet, write to their manager and let them know?

What do you do? Drop any ideas in to the comments box, and let’s see what we can come up with.

1 For my non-native English speaking friends or those too young to know this one, a brickbat is a piece of brick or stone used as a missile. If you pick up half a brick and aim it at someone’s head – so tempting sometimes, I know – that’s a brickbat.

10 thoughts on “Brickbats and Bouquets

  1. Carol 2nd January 2015 / 8:56 pm

    I’ve been trying to be more mindful of smiling and talking to people I see as I go about my days for the past year or so. Life is so much more pleasant that way, and shopping less a chore when people are smiling.
    I do get bit every now and then, though.

    • Jay 2nd January 2015 / 11:59 pm

      It is, isn’t it? I find if I make the effort to be cheerful, it cheers me up, too. I can’t always do it though.

  2. Comedy Plus 2nd January 2015 / 9:24 pm

    In my youth I was as waitress and it’s tough work. I’ve always tipped these folks very well. You can tell the character of a person by the way they treat the waitstaff. I’ve lived by this all my life and it has served me well.

    Have a fabulous day Jay. 🙂

    • Jay 3rd January 2015 / 12:02 am

      Most people I know who’ve been waitresses, shop assistants, barmaids and the like say the same; having done the job, you know what it’s like, and how depressing it can be to have to endure the ignorance, the abuse and the thoughtlessness of the general public while on a low wage. Not that it’s OK to treat people on a higher wage like that, but being on the breadline just makes it worse, doesn’t it?

      I’ve worked in a bar, and in shops, and in office jobs where I dealt with the public so i know, too. I agree, you can judge a character by how people treat those that they perceive to be ‘beneath them’.

  3. nick 2nd January 2015 / 10:37 pm

    I do try to award bouquets where someone has gone the extra mile or shown me special consideration, but I must say it doesn’t happen that often! The service in most businesses is generally no more than the expected minimum.

    I’m always friendly and courteous to people in service industries, as I know how stressful those jobs can get. I spent many years working in bookshops and I know how rude and demanding people can be. Quite often if the service is lacking it isn’t the humble employee’s fault but someone higher up the chain, and ranting at the person in front of you is just stupid and boorish.

    • Jay 3rd January 2015 / 12:05 am

      That’s because you are a thoughtful, thinking person who believes deep in his soul in equality.

      Nobody can swan around with a beaming smile distributing bouquets (whether actual or metaphorical) on a daily basis to all and sundry. But we can smile, and it doesn’t have to cost much to spread a little sunshine, which is why I chose a hand offering a bunch of dandelions, not an expensive bunch of hothouse flowers.

  4. Ron 4th January 2015 / 1:03 am

    Oh, how true this is, Jay! And being someone who is in the customer service industry, I try very hard to be conscious of this.

    I’ve actually either written emails or call companies on the phone to let them know how grateful I was for their excellent service because I know it’s important for them to hear that so that they know they’re doing a good job.

    “Do you know how many people go through supermarket checkouts without even making eye contact with the person behind the till?”

    Amen! People are so into texting and talking their phones that they don’t even make eye contact with others anymore. Honestly, I love technology but it has alienated us from society in so many ways. And this is why I don’t own a cell phone.

    Great post!

    • Jay 4th January 2015 / 9:31 am

      So true. Technology has distanced us. I hate to see people out and about, or sitting in cafes, etc, glued to their phones. I do it at times, but only when I actually need to make a call or look something up. Other times I actually talk to my companions! The exception is if I’m waiting somewhere and I haven’t brought a book. I sat and played solitaire in my doctor’s waiting room the other day, for instance.

      One thing which does make me sad is that, now it’s possible to watch movies on our laptops, OH sometimes watches one in the evening without even telling me. Then when he does mention it later I feel cut out if it’s something I’d have watched with him. He’s making an effort though. Sometimes he’ll remember to call through and say ‘I’m thinking of watching (insert name of film here) – do you want to watch it?’ Of course, most of the time I say no. 😛

  5. liz 4th January 2015 / 2:03 pm

    Okay, I waved my muddy trouser leg at one of the cashiers in Sainsburys this week. Getting too familiar you think?

    I’m glad you have a pile of ‘might come in handy to post things in’ padded envelopes too. Oh whoops that was in the other post. Ah well.

    But you’re right. A few thank yous would make life better.

    • Jay 4th January 2015 / 8:18 pm

      Ha! I don’t think I’ve ever done that, but there may come a time!

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