How to be kind to a city full of strangers

Time and money go a long way toward helping to make Seattle a better city, but giving back in tinier, more personal ways can also be a great daily habit that spreads generosity and goodwill. Sometimes, it’s a simple as finding new ways to brighten someone’s day. One of our favorite experiments in habitual giving is creating “guerrilla compliments.”

We met up with readers Tara Clark and Xanna Vegsundvaag at Eastern Café in Chinatown-International District and wrote up around 40 thoughtful and inspiring cards with hopes of putting smiles on some of our neighbors’ faces. And what’d we do next? Hid ‘em around Seattle for you to find and re-hide in a new spot.

We hid 'guerrilla compliments' around Seattle to brighten your day

Have you found a postcard with the hashtag #GuerrillaCompliments? It might be one of ours. 😍Now here's how you can make your own to make one of your neighbors smile…

Posted by The Evergrey on Thursday, October 4, 2018

We documented part of it in this video with hopes that you might be inspired to write up some compliments to hide around your neighborhoods. Here are ten tips, tricks, and ideas to help you get started with your own guerrilla compliment campaign:

  1. Carry a compliment kit. Stash some cards, postcards or stationery in your bag along with some pens or markers and maybe a little tape to compliment on the fly.
  2. Compliment concisely. Keep it short and sweet. A great compliment doesn’t require a lot of explanation, or a lot of time. One or two sentences is plenty to let people know that you care and that you appreciate them.
  3. Compliments, not commands. Compliments are for you to express appreciation or gratitude of another person, not to tell them what to do. Don’t “remind” people to smile, to feel a certain way or to perform any action as part of your compliment, so they’re sure to bask in the glow of your good intent instead of feeling put upon.
  4. Actions, not appearance. Don’t compliment anyone’s physical attributes or appearance. You may mean it from a nice place, but getting an anonymous comment from a stranger on your looks is really creepy. Instead of complimenting someone’s smile or their style, focus your praise on what they are doing to make Seattle better.
  5. Spread the love. If you get a guerrilla compliment and it made your day, pass it on. Think of it like a chain letter for good vibes. If you don’t have your kit, feel free to place a good compliment elsewhere in the city where it might be enjoyed.
  6. Compliment in context. Encourage people where they make good choices. Place a compliment in recycling or compost bins or on a bike share to high-five your neighbors for helping our environment. Leave one near the library book drop to praise your fellow bookworms. Plant a compliment at the community garden to shout out those who share their harvests.
  7. Share with those who are struggling. Neighbors dealing with housing or food insecurity or addiction need great services, but they also need day-to-day kindness. Consider complimenting near shelters, food distribution points, clinics, or recovery meetings to encourage people who are making hard choices in hard times and those who help them every day.
  8. Praise a public servant. The people who work in our government, in our schools, in parks, on transit, and in first-responder jobs often have to show up for us on our worst days. When you notice a public servant doing a great job, write a compliment on the spot. And if you really want to make their day, snap a pic and email it to their department, so their boss finds out.
  9. Greet the greeters. Take note of those in your local shops, office buildings, community centers, or places of worship who say hello and welcome others. Can you leave them a compliment to return the favor?
  10. Reasons aren’t required. Most of us could use a boost every now and then, and it’s totally fine to use your compliments simply to brighten a stranger’s day. You can remind people that they are special, that you’re glad they’re here in Seattle, or that you appreciate having them as a neighbor without knowing them at all.

Big thanks to reader Zachary Cohn for inspiring our project with his own #guerrillacompliments project. Now get out there and make someone’s day.


Big thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which made this project possible. For more stories and resources to help you give like you live here, check out the other posts in our Evergrey Giving Guide