Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Tricky Compliment

The other evening, I had dinner with a friend who had just given a talk at a local college and gotten kudos for her effort. She enjoyed doing it but said she was indifferent to compliments that once she would have loved. Is that an aging thing she asked me. H-mm. I said maybe at this point in her life she is less concerned with what others' think of her or maybe she is just so secure in her work that compliments don't mean much. The rest of the week, because I have that kind of brain, I was very aware of how compliments function and what people do with them.

For one thing, I know who not to compliment. I have a couple of friends who brush praise off as if it were an annoying mosquito. (One such friend writes for this blog). It doesn't seem like false modesty or embarrassment. It's more like something they just don't want to deal with. If anyone has ideas on this one, I would love to hear them.

Another compliment incident happened at a friend's house. One of her guests came in praising everything in sight. She loved my friend's outfit, her house, her cooking, her pets, her amazing new bathroom etc. It went on way too long to feel genuine and I wondered what purpose it was serving. Was she trying to make herself comfortable or liked, or was this her idea of connecting. My friend smiled through it but the barrage did have a bit of an aggressive edge.

Then, towards the end of the week, I got an email from a niece whom I rarely see but she had been in town recently and we spent a little time together. She said how much she liked seeing me and mentioned a couple of things about me she admired. It was nice but I thought no more about it. Later that day, I was aware of being in a sunny mood for no reason I could think of as the day had not been going well. Then I got it. That little compliment from my niece had nestled down inside me, sending out a low glow. The fact that she was my niece was only a small part of my response. I realized that a compliment from a stranger or someone I rarely see goes over well with me. It's both uncluttered and a pleasant surprise.

A fourth bump up against the tricky compliment happened yesterday. I was to meet someone, a perfectly nice person, but I was tired and didn't want to be "on". But this person requires, let's say demands, attention, a lot of it in the form of compliments. I tend to resist that kind of pull.

Then there's the opposite of the above; the person who never pays compliments. I bet all of us have someone in our lives like that. Not necessarily a grumpy person. A person who might, in fact, be generous in lots of other ways.

PS If anyone has something good to say about Pocket Shrink, I am totally open to that!

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