Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Compliments not given

I am guilty. I don't know how to give compliments well. Oh, I know the mechanics but I just don't know the etiquette. It always seems that there is a sudden deafening pause after I attempt to give a compliment - an uneasy silence during which I don't know what to do.

Mostly this is due to my other failing, not knowing how to properly receive a compliment. I attribute this to a complex internal dialog that occurs just after the complimentor offers their critical praise.

  1. Fear: Why am I being singled out?
  2. Quid pro quo: What do I owe in return?
  3. Buttered-up: Somebody wants a piece of me?
  4. Contempt: Discounting the veracity of the complimentor.
  5. And the worst, Denial: Dismissing the compliment with "I am not worthy."
Now hopefully you are not subject to the same dialog. But I have learned that as I am "normal", if I have these feeling then most, if not all, folks have them to some degree or another. So what do I do to resolve this dilemma for myself? I practice the following mantra until it just rolls off my tongue...

"Thank you"

No dialog, no second guessing, no judgemental gymnastics. If any of the possible "piece-of-me" issues arise subsequently I will deal with them as wholly separate transactions. Until then I will just focus on accepting the compliment.


On now to the giving of compliments. I don't give them often because of that deadly silence that always seems to follow my attempts. In that uncomfortable moment I am plagued with an entire set of new issues.
  1. Discomfort: Complimentee is embarrassed
  2. Dismissed: Complimentee says/thinks, "Yeah, what ever."
  3. Undermined: Complimentee says/thinks, "Yeah, but its not as good as it could be."
  4. Redirected: Complimentee says/thinks, "You should see so-and-so's work."
  5. Oblivion: Complimentee stands silent, not knowing how to receive a compliment.
So my resolve is equally straight forward and simple. My part of the compliment is the giving. That is all I can be responsible for. So, I am just going to start giving compliments. I am going to practice until I get it right. Then I am going to practice it until I make it a habit.

You look marvelous.

Addendum: Ironically, in the past if I was sure that the message would be delivered correctly I would be more inclined to give the compliment to a mutual friend, to be delivered second hand. Interesting how a 'second-hand' compliment means more in the community and is easier to accept.

. . .