I read an article today that intimated our capitalistic society is partially to blame for our inability to accept compliments. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know I’m not comfortable with compliments. For a long time I thought it was somehow my mom’s fault, but as I’ve gotten older, I prefer to think it’s because I’m a realist.
In my experience, there are sincere, well-deserved compliments and then the other 99.98%. That other percentage is what gives compliment giving a bad name and a worse acceptance rate. I’m sure it’s nothing new, been going on since the beginning of time. Those white lies to grease the wheels, those little things you say to keep everything on the rails.
“No, your daughter was a perfect angel!”
(That spawn of Satan will never cross this threshold again.)
“No, it was perfect, I was too tired for anything longer tonight.”
(I’m glad he spoke and woke me up, I’d dozed off there right before the end.)
“I would have known you anywhere!”
(As long as you were wearing that nametag because you bear no resemblance whatsoever to the boy I dated in high school.)
“I don’t know what I’d do without you!”
I could go on, endlessly.
I know when I deserve a compliment.
“Why yes, I did just spend the night cleaning up vomit in three different rooms and showed up dressed, hair combed makeup on, to work, on time.”
There’s a compliment I’ve never received.
How about this one?
“I’ve never seen anyone so calm while an enraged ten year old was swinging a freaking tree branch at their head!”
Never heard that one either.
I think the compliments that many of us field on a daily basis are thrown out carelessly by people who don’t want to be bothered with knowing us well but need something from us nonetheless. That’s when I start to feel the discomfit.
If you need something from me, ask. If I say no, you should have bothered to know me better. Don’t think that ‘wish I had your hair’ or ‘love those combat boots’ or ‘you’re so lucky, you can eat anything’, is going to get you any further down the road.
What would happen if we stopped using compliments as some kind of warped currency and instead looked for something we truly admired in everyone we met? Yes, it might take a little of our time, but wouldn’t it pay off in spades at the end?
Just for fun, what’s the best compliment you’ve never received?